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You can go Nordic walking on city streets or mountain trails. You can use the same streets, sidewalks, running tracks, malls, parks, or trails you would use for fitness walking. Don't walk on ice and try to avoid slippery or unstable surfaces like wet leaves or gravel. With Nordic walking, you can get a good workout in the morning before work, in the evening, or even on your lunch hour. The only equipment you need is your Nordic walking poles and a pair of walking shoes. Use the same safety precautions about terrain, lighting, and traffic that you would use when fitness walking or running.
Walking seems pretty basic, and it really is. For most of human history, that's how you got from place to place, if there wasn't a horse or someone to carry your sedan chair available. Of course, walking is still a major mode of transportation, but modern lifestyles have made us so sedentary we have to purposely walk or do other aerobic activities to maintain health. Let's just survey the forms of fitness walking.
If you just walk half an hour or so a day you will improve your health. If you walk farther or faster you can improve health and fitness as well. Power walking is a term often used by people who are serious about walking for fitness and many who want to make it their sport. Originally it was used to refer to walking with hand weights, but now it can just refer to walking at a rapid pace. (I don't recommend walking with weights. It can be hard on your joints.) Racewalking is a distinct sport. It has had a place in the Olympics for over 100 years. It can satisfy competitive urges for runners who have damaged their knees, for instance. It has rules about the form you must use if you compete. Racewalking technique can help fitness walkers go faster. Hiking is another inexact term. It usually involves walking some distance over rough terrain or trails, sometimes involving hills, and being in a natural environment. Urban hiking is a fairly new activity that brings the spirit of hiking into a city environment. Trekking implies traveling long distances on foot, and now generally is applied to hiking or trekking with the use of poles. You can use your Nordic walking poles for occasional trekking, but if you are going to do a lot of climbing or rough terrain hiking, you should get regular trekking poles. Nordic walking has elements of these activities, but is really a sport of its own. Nordic walking is versatile and can be done on a daily basis with no travel required, which makes it ideal for improving fitness. It is almost as convenient as regular fitness walking, and much more fun.
Nordic walking is a specific form of walking with the use of poles. People have been using hiking sticks for a long time, and we can be sure that many people tried walking with their ski poles to help with balance. Still, Nordic walking as a sport or fitness activity is fairly recent, It started with cross-country skiers who wanted to say in skiing shape during the summer. There are an estimated half million Nordic walkers in Finland, a country with many cross-country skiers. Nordic walking has become an independent activity, finding popularity in Japan, the United States,and many other countries. Nordic walking now appeals to people who have never strapped on a pair of skis, along with those who want to maintain their cross-country skiing skills.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|