Nordic walking a simple way to get fit
By Eva Neumann Mar 12, 2012, 10:18 GMT
Berlin - When the days grow longer and the sunshine gets warmer, it is time to start a spring fitness programme. Nordic walking, whose movements and health benefits are very similar to those of ordinary walking, is one good way to get exercise along with getting some fresh air.
'Walking, when extended and regular, activates circulation and blood flow, lowers the risk of heart attacks and strokes, strengthens the immune system, improves mood and promotes emotional stability,' said Thomas Wessinghage, an orthopaedic surgeon and professor at the German University of Applied Sciences for Prevention and Health Management in Saarbruecken.
The walking done in Nordic walking is aided by two poles used in synchronization with the walker's strides. 'The poles seem to be highly stimulative and have a lot to do with the popularity of this trendy sport,' noted Theodor Stemper, a sports scientist at the University of Wuppertal.
Petra Mommert-Jauch, managing director of the German Walking Institute, added: 'If the poles are used correctly and planted on the ground firmly, back and shoulder muscles are strengthened as well.'
The health benefits of walking are enhanced in Nordic walking due to the longer strides and use of the arms. 'You expend about 5 to 10 per cent more energy in Nordic walking than in ordinary walking or hiking at the same pace,' Stemper said. 'As a rule of thumb, you burn about a kilocalorie per kilogram of body weight in a kilometre of Nordic walking.'
Nordic walking is a comparatively simple fitness activity - hardly any accessories or knowledge of technique are required. The poles are the central element, and it is very important to select the right length. Poles that are too long prevent full extension of the arms, negatively affecting the shoulders.
'For beginners, the length should be two-thirds of the person's height, and seven-tenths for advanced practitioners,' Stemper said.
Hardly any other equipment is required. 'Special walking shoes aren't necessary,' Wessinghage said. 'The footwear has to be appropriate for the wearer, the purpose and the terrain. Comfortable, flexible street shoes or normal running shoes are also suitable.'
The shoes should have good traction and be appropriate for the weather conditions. Shoes with waterproofed leather or a membrane lining are ideal for dampness or rain. Clothing should be comfortable.
Once you have got the basic equipment, you are ready to go. 'Since the movements in Nordic walking and ordinary walking are the same, you don't necessarily have to learn them in special courses,' Wessinghage said. And so long as you have no health problems, he added, you can by all means Nordic walk alone.
The proper pole technique is a bit tricky, though, and can be learned by watching an experienced Nordic walker or by taking an introductory course. Such courses have other benefits, too. 'It's more fun to Nordic walk in a group - it's motivating,' Wessinghage remarked. 'What's more, meeting at fixed times has a disciplining effect.'