Updated: Mar 5, 2019
Although Nordic Walking has been around for a while now, there are still a lot of half-truths about the activity floating around. Let’s take a closer look at some of them…
1. It’s only for older people.
It is fantastic for older people, but…
Nordic Walking is an ideal activity for older adults and those recovering from certain illnesses or injuries. The list of health benefits is long: studies prove that Nordic Walking has positive effects on people suffering from cardiovascular disease, joint and muscle pain, osteoporosis, obesity, diabetes, cancer, neurological conditions, mental illnesses, and many more. It is used in rehabilitation and offered by exercise referral schemes around the country.
However, Nordic Walking is great for other members of the population, too. Some British schools have successfully implemented Nordic Walking into their PE curriculum over the past couple of years, which goes to show that it is an activity enjoyed by children and adults alike.
Moreover, Nordic Walking originally developed from summer training carried out by (cross-country) skiers as early as the 1920s and 30s, and professional athletes still incorporate Nordic Walking, Jumping, Skipping, Running and Sprinting into their fitness routine to this day.
While it is often ex-runners who take up Nordic Walking due to an illness or injury, some runners include Nordic Walking into their training plan because it is an excellent exercise for developing core strength (among many other fitness benefits, of course).
Generally, Nordic Walking is a super versatile, flexible and adaptable activity that can benefit people of all ages and fitness levels.
2. It’s just like walking or trekking with poles.
No, it definitely isn't...
I have written about the differences between Nordic Walking and walking with trekking poles before. Nordic Walking is an activity in its own right, with its own benefits, history, technique, equipment, national and international umbrella organisations, and competitions (and no, it’s not an Olympic discipline (yet)!).
3. It’s just another fitness fad.
I firmly believe that Nordic Walking is here to stay...
Nordic Walking has been around since the 1920s and 30s and became a popular fitness concept in Finland in the 1990s, before spreading to the rest of Scandinavia and countries like Germany, Austria and Switzerland - and eventually to Britain in 2003/2004. It has become an immensely popular sport/activity globally, and more and more Nordic Walking groups and clubs are springing up around the country.
The main reason Nordic Walking is much more than a short-lived fad is that it is based on natural walking patterns. It has all the numerous benefits of ‘normal’ walking, with the added perks of improved upper-body muscular strength and aerobic capacity, and increased energy consumption.
Moreover, there aren’t many barriers to taking up the activity: it can be carried out year-round on your doorstep, and it doesn’t require a lot of expensive equipment. Put on any kind of walking shoes and add poles, complete a beginners’ class, and you’re good to go.
4. You can only do it in the countryside.
In Canada, where I am spending most of the month of August, Nordic Walking is in fact called Urban Poling...
One of the best things about Nordic Walking is that you can do it anywhere: from pavements next to busy roads in the middle of a big city to parks, forests and open countryside. You can Nordic walk on the beach or next to a lake, river or canal. On tarmac, grass, dirt, mud, gravel, sand or snow. In flat or hilly terrain. Really, anywhere.
5. It looks a bit silly, doesn't it?
This is one I just don’t get...
Why is Nordic Walking supposed to look any sillier than, say, running, cycling or swimming? Or sweating in a shouty outdoor fitness bootcamp?
Admittedly, when people Nordic walk with dodgy technique, it can look a bit silly. I just saw someone Nordic walk in downtown Toronto who was planting the poles at a very upright, almost 90-degree angle with the rubber paws pointing in the wrong direction.
However, if you see someone Nordic walk with fluent, smooth technique, it looks very natural, effortless and elegant - and more importantly, that’s exactly what it FEELS like, too!