Nordic walking in the UK? Yes you heard me correctly. This Scandinavian originated activity is gaining more and more popularity right here in the UK. Thanks to its huge range of health benefits applicable to all ages.
First, let me take you back to where it all began. Nordic walking started in the early 20th century in Finland as an off-season ski training activity. For years during the 1990’s, as the snow was melting quicker and quicker during the summer months, skiers needed to find an equivalent activity to maintain their skills and fitness. So, athletes began walking with just the ski poles, they called it “ski walking”. It wasn’t until 1997 when the sport was televised for the first time that it became recognised as a sport. Interest in this newfound activity grew rapidly.
What is Nordic Walking?
It is an enhanced form of natural walking that utilises your whole body. Propelling yourself along using a pair of long poles.
Who Can Do It?
The real appeal of Nordic walking is that it is very versatile, it can be adapted to suit the needs of the walker. For beginners – those who have not exercised in a while, who do not like traditional sports, gyms or those with health issues, can use Nordic walking as an aid to help with mobility problems. To improve their fitness as part of their rehabilitation. While those who are more athletic can use it as a sports conditioning activity.
Why Walk With Poles:
- You are able to walk faster and further using them.
- They take weight off your knees and ankles.
- They keep you stable and anchored when walking.
- The poles work your upper body.
- They can improve lateral ability of the spine.
Benefits of Nordic Walking?
- It is a low impact activity – ideal for those who aren’t able to do high impact sports.
- Allows you to use 80% of your muscles – when done properly.
- Simultaneously works the upper and lower body muscles – resulting in burning significantly more calories.
- The chest, biceps, shoulders and core muscles all get activated along with the leg muscles.
- Cardiovascular – improves your respiratory fitness.
- Reduces any pressure and weight on the knees, joints and the back – results in reduced pain in these areas that would normally occur when walking.
- Improves balance and core stability – core muscle in your abdominals are worked through using the poles.
- Very accessible for anyone to take part in – it’s cheap and can be done anywhere outdoors.
- Encourages you to exercise outside in the natural environment – improves mental health.
- Engages you to explore your nearby natural surroundings – releases positive endorphins from being in natural green space.
Using the poles enables a simple walk to turn into a workout. Whilst at the same time the poles makes the walk less stressful on joints. Those with injuries or health issues normally find it difficult to walk fast enough to get their heart rate up to an adequate rate. The poles help get the blood pumping around the body whilst keeping the walker at a steady pace. All these factors make Nordic walking an ideal activity for those with underlying health issues and injuries.
Real Life Inspiration:
Julie Calder from the Isle of Sheppey is a Nordic Walking coach and is doing some amazing work, helping those with injuries or underlying health issues on the island thanks to the organisation ‘Sheppey Matters’. Having previously worked with rehabilitation clients in a gym atmosphere, Julie has been amazed at how much more satisfied it is helping clients through Nordic walking. This is mainly due to being able to be outside in the natural world rather than confined to the four walls of a gym.
Many of Julie’s clients now walk in her walking groups she runs on the island along The Leas and up at Shellness. These groups are fantastic as they not only provide a regular routine for exercise, but they offer people the opportunity to socialise with others that may have relatable issues. It also enables them to get outside and experience the natural environment because Nordic Walking is a cheap and very accessible activity to participate in.
Being outside in the fresh air is one of the main reasons why Julie’s client are attracted this activity. Getting outside to exercise releases positive endorphins into the brain, encouraging you to feel satisfied and instantily lifting your mood and mental health.
Dorothy – “I cannot believe I have walked up that slope not only pain free but not having to hang on to my husband!”
Dorothy came to Julie with a really bad back and with distinctive signs of pain in her face. She had brought her husband with her as she wasn’t convinced that she would be able finish the trial walk with Julie by herself. However, she was amazed! Almost instantly she felt the weight and strain taken off her back by using the poles and was able to complete the trial walk. Within 4 weeks working with Julie she now walks approx. 2 miles every day, and is still going strong throughout lockdown and restrictions!
If you want to meet Julie and find out more about Nordic Walking on the Isle of Sheppey then find her details on the Everyday Active page.