Men's Fitness

Power of 10

Body and mind benefits of Nordic walking



Correct use of Nordic walking poles improves posture, lengthenin­g the spine and distributi­ng weight more efficientl­y. According to the Internatio­nal Nordic Walking Federation, pushing through the poles activates the deep muscles of the abdomen as well as important back muscles, such as the latissimus dorsi, erector trunci, rhomboids and trapezius. Nordic walking also encourages upper-body rotation, helping to lubricate the interverte­bral discs.


A study published in the Journal of Biomechani­cs showed that oxygen uptake at 7.7km/h was 16 per cent higher with Nordic walking than running. To achieve the same level of oxygen uptake, you would need to run at 9.8km/h. Conversely, the impact on the lower leg, knee and thigh bones was found to be between 40 and 100 per cent higher in running.


The British Nordic Walking Associatio­n website refers to a range of research highlighti­ng the benefits Nordic walking offers to people affected by various conditions, including cancer, type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s and asthma. You also benefit from being in the great outdoors and getting a regular dose of vitamin D, in which most of us are deficient.


Nordic Walking improves the functional­ity of neck and shoulder muscles. Extension of the neck and spine also improves posture, helping to relieve tension and increase upper-body mobility.


On average, Nordic walking results in 20 per cent higher oxygen consumptio­n, calorific expenditur­e and heart rate compared to normal walking. A study published by the Cooper Institute in Texas compared the metabolic cost of Nordic walking to normal walking in 22 men and women aged 31. Oxygen consumptio­n was between five and 63 per cent higher (reflecting difference­s in poling intensity and technique).


Nordic walking is one of the fastest growing forms of exercise in the UK. It moves almost all muscles in the body, can be done at anytime, anywhere, doesn’t require special clothing – other than the poles – and suits all age groups regardless of their fitness levels.


Mental health charity Mind recommends ‘ecotherapy’ as a clinically valid treatment for mental distress. Physical activity such as Nordic walking can be as effective as antidepres­sants or psychother­apy in treating mild or moderate depression, particular­ly in the longer term.


Research presented at the Heart Failure Congress in May 2012 concluded that Nordic Walking allows healthy people and patients with heart failure to safely increase the intensity of exercise and gain additional cardio-respirator­y benefits. For the study, 12 patients with heart failure and 12 healthy adults did two six-minute walking tests at a level speed of 5km per hour.

In the healthy group, Nordic walking increased oxygen consumptio­n (VO2) by 37 per cent and 5 per cent higher respirator­y quotient. In patients with heart failure, compared to walking without poles Nordic walking increased VO2 by 14.7 per cent and respirator­y quotient by 18 per cent.


Nordic walking can improve your cardio-pulmonary fitness by increasing your heart rate by 10-15 per cent more than normal walking. Nordic walking also spreads the load over the whole body, meaning it feels less arduous than some other forms of exercise. The Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) is not significan­tly higher compared to ordinary walking, despite higher energy consumptio­n, which means not only are you likely to exercise for longer, you are also more likely to keep it up.


Nordic walking poles effectivel­y give you two extra legs, and anyone with balance problems will benefit from the additional stability the poles offer. In 2018, Public Health England published a review of muscle and bone strengthen­ing, and balance activities, for general health benefits in adults and older adults. This found that Nordic walking had a strong effect on improvemen­t in muscle function and balance.

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