Nordic walking is a practice of walking with two mid-length, thin but sturdy poles. It is done as a sport for both exercise and enjoyment.
It can be done at a variety of speeds and intensities, on any terrain (except water.)
It is similar to other sports such as “trekking” which also involve walking with poles.
Nordic walking, like walking itself, is “inexpensive, safe, accessible, can be a sociable exercise and can be done in various environments.” ((Zurawik, Marta Anna. History of Nordic walking in Finland. Centre for Research for Health and Well-being at the University of Bolton. Retrieved October 2013 from www.academia.edu/2969365/History_of_Nordic_walking_in_Finland.))
Exercise-wise it is considered superior to walking without poles because it involves the upper body, which is required to apply force to the poles in pushing back at each step. Estimates of how much energy it burns vary wildly, but the ranges seem to estimate 46% more than regular walking at a minimum, and range up to 80%. How much you burn really depends on how well you develop your technique, and how fast you go. ((“Thirty minutes of Nordic walking at three miles an hour for an average female would burn 165 calories, increasing to 195 as they develop their technique. Thirty minutes of Nordic walking at roughly four miles an hour will burn between 230 and 275 calories depending on technique.” Stewart, Gill. Quoted in: Venning, Annabel. Nordic Walking could give you shapely arms and a pert derriere (and you don’t need any snow). London: Daily Mail. 7 February 2010. Retrieved March 2014 from: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1249000/Nordic-Walking-shapely-arms-pert-derriere-dont-need-snow.html))
Weight Watchers™ accords Nordic walking double the activity points compared to regular walking of the same speed.
Nordic walking differs from trekking in that “trekking is when you walk in the wild, where poles serve as a balancing aid and help in carrying heavy loads in difficult terrain, whereas Nordic walking is more of a fitness-type of walking with poles specially designed for it.” ((Zurawik, Marta Anna. History of Nordic walking in Finland. Centre for Research for Health and Well-being, University of Bolton. Retrieved March 2014 from www.academia.edu/2969365/History_of_Nordic_walking_in_Finland.))
My personal impression of Nordic walking
Nordic walking is not a competitive sport — no one wins or loses. It’s very companionable; you can keep up a bit of a conversation while doing it, depending on how fast you are pumping it along.
It gets you outdoors in all kinds of weather.
I find it gives me a feeling of freedom in that each bounce and push of the pole makes you feel just a bit like you’re taking off. And those two simple poles turn a sidewalk, quiet road or trail into a fitness gym.
When I’m out norking on a safe, smooth trail, I find my mind can really zone out, and forget all about work stresses for 20 minutes or half an minute. In that way, despite Nordic walking being very real exercise, it’s very relaxing. The poles also give you a sense of stability and security helping you to relax just that little bit more.
Costwise, what I find appealing is that there’s a one-time cost of poles for around 100 bucks (£50 pounds), and you’re good to go. There’s no monthly gym membership that you keep on guiltily paying years after you stopped going. Of course, eventually you will probably find yourself wanting good walking shoes, etc, but other than that, there’s really few Nordic walking accessories to buy.