After spending most of today outside on a day almost as bad (possibly worse) as the day I wrote the first post for this blog, I am reminded why it is so easy to stay indoors and do nothing except eat all the chocolate I have been given for Christmas, and catch up on all the TV I’ve recorded. BUT, despite the howling wind, driving rain and hail storm that was Lathkill Dale this afternoon, there are many good reasons to get out and walk, and to try Nordic Walking in particular. (Bear in mind, with the lovely UK weather, any winter walking is much more enjoyable when kitted out with suitable clothing and wet weather gear – a topic for another day…)
1. Burns 20-40% more calories - a bold claim, but given the technique requires full involvement of the upper limbs, and then propels you forward at a speed you may not have thought you were capable of, it soon becomes clear why those extra calories vanish. It also means that you can achieve the more exercise in half the time, which is handy if you find it difficult to fit everything in to 24 hrs.
2. Works the whole body - it is easy to walk without using your arms if you walk slow enough, and our natural arm swing only appears at a good speed if not using poles. When present, it is an additional mechanism to generate energy and propel you forward. so walking the Nordic way becomes a whole body exercise.
3. Easy to Learn – in the first session you may wonder how you will ever manage without tripping over your poles, but given half a chance your brain will learn the new movement patterns needed quite quickly. If you come on the Learn to Nordic Walk course you will soon feel the difference.
4. Sociable and fun - any new skill can be great fun when learned with others who start out in a similar situation to ourselves. Once learned the technique is a sociable way to exercise with old and new friends.
5. Lessens the impact on the joints – absolutely! As a physiotherapist, one of the first things we are taught is how to measure someone for walking sticks and crutches. Adding one stick or pole reduces the load on the joints significantly, but adding 2 – even more body weight is taken off the legs and shared between the arms and the poles. You can still do hard aerobic work without wearing your joints out, or you can use the poles to enable you to walk in a way that might not be possible for you without the extra support they offer.
6. Suitable for everyone - for lots of reasons, not least the support just mentioned, the Nordic Walking technique can be adapted to suit almost anyone.
7. Great for neck, shoulders and backs - now, i won’t get dragged into this one in detail because i could go on! Basically, because the poles create the involvement of the arms, the neck and shoulders have to get involved in a way that is not inherent in many other fitness approaches. The constant rotation created through the arm swing, mobilises the shoulders, neck and whole spine, and that is essential for maximising flexibility and minimising joint stiffness, and tat in turn reduces the risk of injury. Not least that back and neck pain is lower in those who are generally physically fit and active.
8. Affordable - once the technique has been mastered you can do it almost any time any place – including without an expensive gym membership. Investing in a decent set of poles and suitable outdoor kit is the bare essentials, and after that you can spend as little as you like.
9. Can be done anywhere – to start with you feel the need for a flat, wide track or grassy area, but as your confidence with the technique grows you will find you can happily take your poles with you anywhere and adapt your technique to the terrain.
10. Green Exercise – in one of 2 ways – Nordic Walking has a low impact on the environment as long as you follow all sensible countryside codes, and can even provide free aeration of the local croquet lawns (as at one of our locations!). But also, exercising outdoors has been shown to have greater health benefits compared with exercising indoors (more on this another time).
11. It gets you out of the house on the bleakest of winter days because you come to love it! (N.B. You should NOT walk with poles in lightening for obvious reasons). I started Nordic Walking because my mum did it, then I enjoyed it, so I got some more instruction, and then I have realised how much fitter I have become, and how much easier it is to fit it into my life, and how much I prefer to be outside than inside, ad look where all that has got me now!
If you are feeling inspired – hop to the Nordic Walking Page for more information and / or to the Taster and Courses page to find a date to come and give it a try. Don’t be out off if you don’t live locally, you can either plan a visit to the Peak District and book a course here with me, (one day intensive courses planned for the summer) or you can go to http://www.nordicwalking.co.uk and look up an instructor near to you.