A Different Kind of Walking!
BY AWAKE! WRITER IN FINLAND
Have you heard of Nordic walking? In Finland this kind of walking has become one of the most popular exercises. It involves the use of poles similar to those used in skiing. How did it develop, and what are its benefits?
WHEN you see a Nordic walker, you may think of a cross-country skier without skis. Actually, it was ski racers who gave birth to Nordic walking when they began to intensify their summer training by walking with their ski poles. In the 1980’s, pole walking was introduced to other athletes as an effective exercise. By the late 1990’s, Nordic walking was adopted by the general population. A 2004 Gallup survey showed that 760,000 Finns—19 percent of the population—engage in Nordic walking at least once a week. “Nordic walking has now become the second most popular exercise in Finland, with walking the first,” says Tuomo Jantunen, executive director of Suomen Latu, the organization that commissioned the survey. Nordic walking has not proved to be a passing fad. In recent years it has gradually been introduced into other countries as well.
Many are familiar with the benefits of walking, but what are the advantages of walking with poles? “One great benefit is that Nordic walking exercises the upper body, including muscles in the arms, back, and abdomen,” says physical therapist and Nordic-walking expert Jarmo Ahonen. “It also helps to relax tension in the neck and shoulders, which is a common problem among office workers,” he adds.
As Nordic walking works more muscles than normal walking, it also increases calorie consumption. Using poles makes it easier for a person to speed up the walk and get the pulse rate up. But that is not all. Proponents claim that when poles are used correctly, they help one to walk tall, improving posture. “Nordic walking also relieves strain on the joints, as part of the body weight can be directed to the walking poles,” claims Ahonen. One Nordic walker explains that the pointed poles help him maintain balance when walking on slippery surfaces. As a result, during the winter elderly walkers have adopted this new kind of walking, for then the ground is often covered with snow or ice.
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Nordic walking does not call for expensive equipment. You need only good shoes and specially designed poles of proper length. If you walk on hard surfaces, use rubber plugs to cover the sharp tips of the poles. Nordic walking is not too difficult to master. You can learn it. However, if you are a beginner, it would be good to have some advice from a Nordic-walking expert.