Nordic Walking Benefits Tips

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Working Your Core

Exercise to strengthen your "core" is big right now, and has been for a few years. Core strengthening is the basis for pilates exercise, and is a benefit of yoga, although the practitioners don't talk about it so much. Personal trainers at gyms can be seen having clients do many ordinary exercises while sitting on an exercise ball because this is thought to work the core.

The "core" in this case is the part of your body between the bottom of your rib cage and your hips, both front and back. Strength and stability in this area is indeed important to posture and health, especially to your back. Most of the muscles involved are deep postural muscles. The only one that is seen very much is the rectus abdominus--the source of the elusive "six pack." Products or programs that promise you "a sexy core" are to be viewed with suspicion. Definition in the rectus abdominus depends somewhat on genetics and a lot on having low body fat, no matter how many sit-ups or similar exercises you do.

Nordic walking is good for your core. Because Nordic walking uses most of your muscles and most of your joints, and does it while you are upright and using good posture, the core area is strengthened as those muscles work together. This can help prevent or correct muscle imbalances. The core area is important in any full body exercise. Nordic walking does more for your core, and is more of a functional exercise, than doing dumbbell biceps curls while sitting on an exercise ball, where you are probably using your legs to keep from falling off. So you can add core training to the benefits of Nordic walking.


How Fast Is Moderate?

Recommendations for walking for health and fitness often specify moderate walking, as in 30 minutes, 5 times a week, at a moderate speed, effort, or whatever. The question, of course, is what is moderate? Now we have an answer in an article from the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. These experts tell us 100 steps a minute is the minimum pace for proper cardiovascular exercise. If you have a pedometer, it's easy to judge your pace. Otherwise, you can just count. (Left, right is two steps.) This comes down to about 3000 steps in that 30-minute walk. For most people, a mile is about 2000 steps. To figure out how many steps you take, use your pedometer on a course you measure with your car's odometer, or do four laps of a quarter-mile track (on the inside lane). No need to be real accurate about any of this.

This pace comes out to 3 miles in an hour, or 20 minutes per mile. I will go along with this as moderate. We used to take 15-minute miles as brisk walking, but I have recently seen brisk defined all the way down to 20 minutes. Moderate walking, and sometimes even slower, will give you many health benefits. Try to go a bit faster to improve fitness. Better yet, do what seems moderate or somewhat hard to you, depending on your goals. (This will change as you get more fit.) Of course, you can go faster for a shorter distance, but will slow down as the distance grows. You can do regular walking sometimes and Nordic walking for your workout on other days. You get more out of Nordic walking for the same pace and distance.


Weight Loss for Those Who Need It

There was an article in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise comparing walking distance and weight loss in over 27,000 women. The researchers found "decline in adiposity" (fat loss) per kilometer walked to be greatest in overweight, sedentary women, and least in those who were lean and active. This doesn't seem to be a big surprise. You would think that overweight people would be more likely to lose weight from exercise than normal weight individuals. But if exercise burns calories, it should burn calories for everybody.

The fact is, the larger your body mass, the more energy it takes to move it, thus more calories are expended per mile for the larger person. The body pretty much takes care of these things, if you listen to it, so that if you are lean and exercise a lot, you compensate for the calories expended by eating more. The same article tells us that the decline in body mass index was more for walkers than for runners. This is not because walking burns more calories per mile or kilometer than running does, but rather that runners were leaner to start with.

The good news from all this is that walking contributes to weight loss for overweight individuals, apparently the more walking the more weight loss. This was regular walking. Nordic walking burns more calories for the same distance, so is better yet for weight loss. What about the lean women? They still get all the other health benefits from walking, and these are considerable.

What are the benefits of Nordic walking?

Benefits of Nordic Walking

The principal benefit of Nordic walking as compared to regular walking is that it engages most of the muscles in your body. This allows you to get more overall exercise in the same amount of time as you do when you do regular walking. This is a great overall conditioning workout for people with limited time for exercise. You burn more calories than with regular walking. You don't use as many calories as when you run for the same amount of time, but it gives you more upper body conditioning than running. Nordic walking, as a low impact exercise, is much easier on your joints than running.

Can I do Nordic walking if I have bad knees?

Walkers with Orthopedic Problems

People with orthopedic problems can benefit from Nordic walking. If you have problems with your knees or other joints that make fitness walking difficult or painful, you may be able to do Nordic walking with less pain. Using the Nordic walking poles distributes your weight so that some of the pressure is taken off your joints, thus relieving the pain in your knees, hips, or ankles. Nordic walking is more stable than basic fitness walking because the poles are extra contact points so people with balance problems can walk more comfortably. With Nordic walking you can get the health and fitness benefits of walking without irritating sore joints. Of course, you should check with your doctor before starting this or any other exercise program.


The Magic Pill?

Research on walking shows so many health benefits that if you could get them through a pill, it would seem to be "magic." Although most research has been done with regular walking, there's no reason to think that Nordic walking would not be as good, or better. Duke Medicine Health News put together some recent studies and found that walking helps with the following: lowering blood pressure, reducing risk of heart attack and stroke, lowering triglycerides, improving insulin sensitivity, and avoiding dementia. It also shrinks abdominal fat.

Walking improves your metabolic profile and guards against metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome, which is becoming more common, is a group of symptoms including high blood presure, high triglycerides, low beneficial HDL cholesterol, abdominal obesity, and insulin resistance.

To get these health benefits, you only have to walk 30 minutes every day (or sometimes 5 or 6 days a week, depending on the study). You can even do that 30 minutes in two or three segments, though you will probably want to devote the 30 minutes to Nordic walking all at once. Is Nordic walking even more beneficial than regular walking? We can't really say, because the research hasn't been done. But it is more fun, so you'll be more likely to do it.

Is Nordic walking good for burning calories?

Calorie Burning

Adding poles and doing Nordic walking, compared to walking without poles, burns about 20% more calories. This is with the same perceived exertion. This means you can burn significantly more calories without feeling you are working harder. (Ref. Research Quarterly Exercise & Sport, 2002 Sep. 73(3)296) If you improve your technique and/or go faster, you can expend more energy and increase calorie burning even more in the same workout time.

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