Nordic Walking: It May Look Silly, but It's a Killer Body Toner

Cynthia Dermody

You may have done a double-take at one of those people walking down the street with ski poles lately. I did -- just the other day. I knew this fella was doing some sort of workout; I just didn't know what kind or how or what the poles and arm movements were adding above and beyond the walking part.

Turns out it's called Nordic Walking, and I only know this because someone sent me an email the other day about a whole book on the subject, Nordic Walking for Total Fitness, by Suzanne Nottingham. By some studies, Nordic Walking is 48% more efficient than normal walking. That means those poles add another half-walk to the workout you're doing already, burning more calories, toning more muscles.

Then I got curious and did some research on my own. This is what I learned about the basics of Nordic Walking:

  • It helps you lose weight, increasing your heart rate on average 10 to 15% more than normal walking. This means you can burn well over 400 calories per hour, much more than the 280 of normal walking.
  • It's a total-body workout, toning not just the legs but your arms and core as well.
  • Normal walking, even with a fast pace and good stride, only uses approximately 70% of the muscle mass in the body at any given time. Nordic Walking utilizes up to 90% of your body’s muscle while increasing your heart rate significantly.
  • You don't just grab any old poles and go. There's a proper technique involving keeping the poles close to your body and opening and closing your hands with each stride for maximum results. The instructor in the YouTube video above demonstrates the basics.

I'd love to try it -- the photos of people you see doing it are all in amazing shape, but I'm not sure I'll be able to get over how silly I think I'd look. I'd worry about all the jokes: "Hey, lost your snow-covered mountain or something?"

Have you tried Nordic Walking?

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