An expert explains how Nordic walking can boost your daily walking routine

Have you ever noticed people walking on stilts even on flat surfaces and on stilts? It’s called Nordic walking, a bit like skiing, but without the snow.

Walking with poles first developed in Scandinavia and came to Central Europe about 20 years ago. For some reason, despite its many health benefits, it has not become particularly popular.

Here’s why – along with a few good reasons to try Nordic walking.

1. You burn more calories

As early as 1995, scientists noted that Nordic walking burns more calories than regular walking. In fact, they found that they burned 18 percent more calories than regular walking.

Many studies have since confirmed these findings – which is why it’s suggested that Nordic walking may be an excellent form of exercise for those looking to lose weight. A study from Italy found that even overweight people lost more weight with Nordic walking than regular walking.

Although Nordic walking doesn’t burn more calories than other, more intense forms of exercise – such as jogging – it can be a low-impact exercise option or a way to increase the benefits of your regular daily walks.

2. Can reduce pain in the limbs

Using bars when you push will spread your weight across your arms and torso, putting less stress on your back, knees and hips. In theory, this has the potential to improve back pain while walking.

However, the research is mixed, with some studies showing that Nordic walking can reduce back pain and impact on the knees, while others have shown that it is no more beneficial than simple walking.

If you are someone who suffers from back, hip or knee pain, you may benefit from Nordic walking as it distributes your weight a bit. However, before trying it, you should first discuss it with your doctor and stop if your pain persists while using the poles.

3. Improves upper body strength

Nordic walking engages your arms and shoulders more than regular walking, and this improves your strength. Studies have shown that Nordic walking not only increases hand grip strength, but also increases muscle activity in the shoulders.

Upper body strength—including how strong your grip is—is important for many things we do every day, from shopping to filling the kettle. Building muscle strength is also important for injury prevention because it helps stabilize joints and protects them when moving under impact, such as carrying heavy shopping bags.

4. Increases core strength

Nordic walking engages more core muscles (including the muscles in your abdomen and lower back) than regular walking.

Greater engagement of the core muscles helps strengthen them, which in turn improves posture. Better core strength will also improve your balance as well as mobility.

5. Reduce the risk of falling

Unfortunately, as we get older, we tend to trip and fall while walking. This is mainly due to decreased muscle strength, balance issues and problems with our gait.

The advantage of Nordic walking is that you use your feet to place the poles on the floor at the same time. This improves balance and reduces the likelihood of falling.

In fact, one study found that people who followed a Nordic walking exercise program for three weeks improved their balance while walking without poles. No wonder Public Health England recommends Nordic walking to improve balance in older people.

6. Improves cardiovascular health

Studies show that Nordic walking improves cardiovascular fitness in as little as four weeks.

Another study in obese women also found that Nordic walking can improve blood pressure just as much as regular walking. In addition, Nordic walking improves blood sugar levels in postmenopausal women, which is important in preventing diabetes and improving blood cholesterol levels.

7. You can walk faster

Nordic walking helps you get anywhere faster than regular walking. In fact, a review found that Nordic walking increased average walking speed by up to 25 percent compared to regular walking. By walking faster, you can burn more calories. So if you go for a 30-minute Nordic walk, you can go further and burn more calories than you would with a regular walk.

There seem to be clear advantages to doing the Scandinavian print. This can be especially good for people who don’t enjoy other forms of exercise, such as jogging, but still want to do something more high-intensity than brisk walking.

Lindsey Bottoms, Reader in Exercise and Health Physiology, University of Hertfordshire.

This article is reprinted from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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