Nordic walking, also known as ski walking, pole walking or fitness walking, is a form of exercise consisting of walking with poles similar to ski poles.
Nordic walking is defined as fitness walking with specially designed poles. It evolved from an off-season ski
-training activity known as ski walking, hill bounding or ski striding to become a way of exercising year-round. Ski walking and hill bounding with poles has been practiced for decades as dry land training for competitive Nordic skiers
. Ski coaches saw the success of world class cross country skiers who used ski poles in the summer for ski walking and hill bounding and it became a staple of off-season Nordic ski training. Hikers with knee pain discovered they could walk more powerfully with a pair of trekking poles, often eliminate or reduce hip, knee foot pain, and backpackers found relief from painful backs when using poles.
The first specially designed Nordic walking poles were introduced in 1997 by a Finnish ski pole manufacturer and "Nordic walking" became the accepted generic term for fitness walking with specially designed poles. The Nordic skiing savvy Northern Europeans quickly embraced this dry land hybrid of two of their favorite fitness activities -- Nordic skiing and walking, and in a little more than a decade after its European introduction, more than 10 million people around the globe have taken up fitness walking with specially designed poles as a regular form of exercise.
Nordic walking can be done year round in any climate and anywhere a person of any age or ability might otherwise walk without poles. It combines simplicity and accessibility of walking with simultaneous core and upper body conditioning similar to Nordic skiing. The result is a full-body walking workout that can burn significantly more calories without a change in perceived exertion or having to walk faster, due to the incorporation of many large core, and other upper-body muscles which comprise more than 90% of the body's total muscle mass and do work against resistance with each stride. 'Normal walking' utilizes less than 70% of muscle mass with full impact on the joints of the legs and feet.
Nordic Ski Walking produces up to a 46% increase in energy consumption compared to walking without poles.
Compared to regular walking, Nordic walking involves applying force to the poles with each stride. Nordic walkers use more of their entire body (with greater intensity) and receive fitness building stimulation not as present in normal walking for the chest, lats, triceps, biceps, shoulder, abdominals, spinal and other core muscles. This extra muscle involvement leads to enhancements over ordinary walking at equal paces such as:
- increased overall strength and endurance in the core muscles and the entire upper body
- significant increases in heart rate at a given pace
- greater ease in climbing hills
- burning more calories than in plain walking
- improved balance and stability with use of the poles
- significant un-weighting of hip, knee and ankle joints
- creates positive total body bone density-preserving stress
Nordic walking poles are significantly shorter than those recommended for cross-country skiing. Using poles of incorrect length may add stress to the walker's knees, hips and/or back, diminishing the benefits of walking with poles. Nordic walking poles come in both one-piece, non-adjustable shaft versions, and telescoping two-piece or thre-piece twist-locking adjustable length versions. Nordic walking poles feature grips with special Nordic walking straps - a kind of fingerless glove, allowing power transmission through the strap and eliminate the need to tightly grasp the pole grips.
Unlike trekking poles, Nordic walking poles come with Nordic walking straps, removable rubber tips for use on hard surfaces and hardened metal tips for trails, the beach, snow and ice. Most poles are made from lightweight aluminum, carbon fiber, or composite materials.