Walking is one of the simplest ways to get fit and improve your health. All you need is a well-fitting pair of shoes and somewhere to walk. Walking is great for your health – it works all of your major muscle groups, gets your heart pumping and can even boost your mood. Scientists believe that a daily walk could reduce your risk of all sorts of age-related health problems from osteoporosis, heart disease and arthritis. It could even help your manage menopause symptoms.
Now in the UK there is a growing trend for Nordic walking - which involves using walking poles and a special walking technique to help you get fitter faster, while putting less pressure on your joints. It's the perfect way to get fit as you get older, it's great fun and easy to get hooked on too.
If you’re already a regular walker and you want even more benefits, or you’ve never walked for fitness and would like some help and support, Nordic Walking could be for you. “Nordic Walking involves using poles to support you as you walk,” says Nordic Walking instructor Gill Stewart. “This helps you to engage all of your major muscles with every step and helps to spread the effort evenly between your upper and lower body. Using the poles means you can go further and faster than usual without getting too worn out.”
Walking with poles helps you to feel lighter on your feet and takes the pressure off your knees and other joints, so it’s great if you have arthritis but would still like to exercise. It’s suitable for anyone one at any age or fitness level because you can go at your own pace. You can work with your body and how it feels that day and tailor your walk to suit.
It's great for weight loss too. “You’ll burn up to 40 per cent more calories than you would on a normal walk because you’re using many more muscles,” says Gill. “In fact you’ll be using more energy than jogging and even swimming, but it feels easier due to the support and ‘push’ of the poles.”
You’ll need to learn the Nordic Walking technique from a qualified instructor (there are over 3,000 qualified instructors in the UK – find your nearest at www.nordicwalking.co.uk). It’s a great idea to join a Nordic Walking group where you can meet new friends and get regular support from your instructor. Once you’ve got the hang of it there are Nordic Walking routes and walks all over the UK.