“Where’s the snow?” It is a question I have heard many times over the years as I have been out enjoying one of my favourite activities—Nordic Pole Walking, aka Urban Poling. Even though I appreciate that they perhaps recognize the similarities of what I am doing to cross-country skiing, my standard answer would be “Snow is optional”, since it is a 4-season activity. The other misconception that seems to exist is that walking with poles is only for people who have difficulty walking without support. Although it can help with balance and stability for those who need it, this activity is not exclusively for that purpose. And they are not hiking or trekking poles either. They are poles specifically designed to build fitness by turning an ordinary walk outside into an energizing, full-body physical activity.
The number one perk of pole walking is that you are using your upper body as well as your lower body to move yourself along and therefore ramping up all the benefits of going for a walk. It is a game changer! The key to getting the most out of it is proper technique, which is why it is a good idea to get some formal instruction when you are just learning. As I alluded to earlier, the technique is like cross-country skiing in that you use your arms to help propel yourself forward by pressing down on the poles. It is simple but not necessarily intuitive and does take a bit of practice to master, however, once you do, walking with poles becomes as natural as without. For me, it seems like something is missing if I don’t have my poles.
The following are some of the reasons why I love pole walking:
- 90% of the muscles in your body can be engaged, which is great for the often underused upper body muscles
- You can achieve a higher intensity cardiovascular workout without running
- It challenges your core muscles, your abs contract each time you push off with the poles
- It is easier on the joints, reducing stress on the low back, hips and knees
- It improves posture, the upper back muscles contract each time you press down on the poles
- Suitable for all ages and fitness levels, easy to adjust the intensity
- Adaptable to whatever terrain you like to walk on
- The rhythmical nature of walking with poles can be meditative, which promotes a sense of calm
- It is a great way to get outside and enjoy nature providing an added boost to our mental health
Pole walking is an excellent aerobic type activity with some muscle toning and posture improvement included. You really cannot argue with the fact that regular physical activity is one of the best things you can do to enhance your well-being. There are many ways to move your body every day and it is important to participate in a variety of activities. I hope this has inspired you to give Nordic Pole Walking a try and take your walk to a whole new level. If you have any questions about it please reach out. As I like to say, if you are going to walk for exercise, might as well do it with poles!
By Lori Andrade, BPHE, CSEP. Lori is a Certified Urban Pole Walking instructor and Personal Trainer. You can reach Lori at email@example.com
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