What is Nordic Walking? What are the Benefits?

Nordic walking is a sport that combines walking with a skiing technique and that can be used in different environments. We'll tell you all about what it's good for in this article.
What is Nordic Walking? What are the Benefits?

Last update: 31 March, 2021

Also known as Nordic marching, Nordic walking is a resistance sport that’s practiced outside. It basically consists of walking with the help of poles that are similar to ski poles.

You don’t need snow or a mountain for Nordic walking, just a desire to head out to the local park or some other spot, plus a couple of good walking poles. It’s fun, but best of all, it gives you a thorough workout!

What should you know about Nordic walking?

For some, Nordic walking is something like walking or trekking but a little more intense. For others, it’s like running or jogging with ‘help’. It’s an aerobic and resistance exercise, where you use the poles to give you impetus. You’ll work the whole of your upper body as well, not just the lower body as with normal walking.

To understand a little more about this sport, let’s look at how it started. Nordic walking has around 100 years of history. Its origins go back to the 1930s, where it was proposed as a solution to a problem that cross-country skiers had. During the warmer months, they didn’t have any way to train or maintain their physical condition. If they couldn’t travel to the opposite hemisphere to find snow, they would go months without training.

The practice of Nordic walking started in Finland, where the people took it very seriously and they even created special schools for learning the technique for walking with sticks. Many years later, toward the end of the 1980s, the sport arrived in the United States, and from there, it became a new technique for walking.

In 1997 special poles that could be attached to the hand started to be used, and a more specific technique was developed for walking on level ground. Basically, you’ll find three methods for Nordic walking.

1. Ten steps methodology

This methodology defends the idea that you should walk naturally, with correct posture and central stability. You should use your back and core muscles and employ a technique that’s similar to cross-country skiing.

A man walking in a forest.

2. Original method

This is the official method recognized by the World Original Nordic Walking Federation and uses the diagonal technique derived from cross-country skiing. It also combines strength exercises and stretches.

3. WSFA-247

The third technique has this name because each letter refers to a certain movement. W: walk straight (with good posture). S: stretch out your arms (to push yourself better with the poles). F: form a triangle (putting the pole in at 60 degrees). And lastly, A: adjust your step (will vary according to each person’s gait).

What are the benefits of Nordic walking?

According to an article by professionals on Harvard Health Publishing, a website from the prestigious US university, Nordic walking consumes between 18 and 65 percent more energy than traditional walking. It’s therefore ideal for those looking for physical activities to help them lose weight, for instance.

The same source quotes Doctor Aaron Baggish, who affirms that Nordic walking demands extra effort from 80 to 90 percent of the body’s muscles. Conventional walking uses muscles almost exclusively from just the body’s lower half.

Another of the many benefits of this sport is that it reduces the rebound effect and the load on lower body joints, such as knees and ankles. That’s why it’s within the group of low-impact exercises and training.

On the other hand, a study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine includes Nordic pole walking within the list of the most recommended activities for adults. This source highlights principally the beneficial effects of this activity on cardiovascular health and its importance in preventing chronic diseases.

We could also add commonly cited benefits for physical exercise in general to this list. According to an article from Merck Manual, some of the benefits are as follows:

  • Strengthens the muscles and bones, apart from improving balance.
  • Reinforces the immune system.
  • Increases a sense of well-being.
  • Improves coordination between arms and legs.
  • Strengthens the back muscles, therefore helping to align posture.

Considering all of the above benefits, Nordic walking can reduce the risk of suffering from chronic diseases. Don’t you think it’s an eminently recommendable activity?

Where can you practice Nordic walking?

A woman walking with poles along a beach.

It’s not quite as simple as just walking with sticks, but it’s not an activity that’s too complicated to be able to do it anywhere you like either. Here are some ideas for places where you could try Nordic walking:

  • A park: you don’t have to search for a spot far from home to do Nordic walking. Even in the city, there are plenty of parks you could practice in. You might even find organized groups for training in public areas.
  • The mountains: this would be one of the best options to make the best of nature and good weather during spring or summertime.
  • Forests: they’re also a great choice for getting some fresh air. It’s recommended you use two poles and choose spots with clearly marked walking paths.
  • The beach: the sand will slow your steps but will use more energy and will allow you to work on your resistance. It’s also a great idea for vacations.

As you can see, Nordic walking has many benefits and is a great activity for any age group. If you’ve never tried it, we invite you to give it a go. You won’t regret the gorgeous feeling of being out in nature!

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.