Nordic Walking – and its role in the battle against lifestyle-related disease
We are all aware that Australia’s inactivity levels in combination with our ageing population have serious implications for our healthcare systems, the economy and on a more personal scale our day to day enjoyment and quality of life. We also know that the implementation of preventative care programs which utilise physical activities that are effective, accessible and enjoyable for the mass public are critical to the success of our battle against lifestyle related diseases.
It is within this context that I find Nordic Walking such an exciting activity and possess so much passion for it, as it has exactly these attributes (effectiveness, accessibility and enjoyment) that are necessary to make a difference on a grand scale.
So what exactly is Nordic Walking? Its technical definition is: a form of fitness walking which utilises specially designed poles and a learned technique to create a low impact, high results, total body work out. In more simple terms, it is an activity that uses special poles to engage and give the upper body a workout whilst walking.
Studies in both Europe and the United States have been conducted on Nordic Walking and have proven the following benefits.
- activates 90% of the body's muscles
- burns up to 46% more calories compared to regular walking without poles
- gives up to 25 % greater cardiovascular workout than regular walking
- decreases the load and impact on the joints of the lower body
- strengthens as well as tones the upper back, shoulders and arms
- gives a more intense workout but with lower perceived exertion
- increases the lateral mobility of the spine
- develops core stability and strength
- releases pain and muscle tension in the neck and shoulders
- promotes an upright and balanced walking posture
- improves co-ordination and balance
The combination of these benefits make Nordic Walking an ideal exercise for people suffering from a wide variety of chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, osteoporosis, Parkinson’s, obesity, and Multiple Sclerosis.
Even though Nordic Walking originates from the cool Scandinavian countries, it is an activity that is perfectly suited to Australia’s climate, landscape and ‘outdoorsy’ lifestyle. Snow or skis are definitely not needed! Rather, Nordic Walking can be done anywhere that normal walking is performed - on sand, gravel paths, asphalt or grass, and on flat or hilly landscapes. It is not like trekking so proper instruction is essential in order to ensure the poles can deliver the maximum benefit to the participant.
Exercise physiologists, physiotherapists, podiatrists, cardiac nurses and personal trainers are just a few of the professionals that are utilising this affordable and easy to facilitate form of exercise as an inclusion or an add-on to their existing suite of services. Certified training is essential so that the technique can be adapted and modified to accomodate an individual‘s physical abilities and health needs.
Nordic Walking may still be a relatively new concept here in Australia however it carries an impressive list of international credentials: in Finland (where Nordic Walking officially started) an amazing 30% of the population regularly Nordic Walk, in Switzerland health insurance companies offer reduced premiums for those who Nordic Walk, in Austria doctors prescribe Nordic Walking as medical treatment, in Germany there have been mainstream magazines devoted solely to the activity, in the UK community health programs run strong, and in the US marathons and fun runs have created separate categories for Nordic Walkers.
Here in Australia, awareness and participation is growing steadily. Nordic Academy is the recognised authority and leading provider of quality Nordic Walking training, equipment and resources for the Asia-Pacific region. Since they commenced operations in 2005, they have trained up over 200+ health professionals from all corners of the country, and have worked in partnership with many of the largest health organisations to deliver community programs.
If what has already occurred overseas happens in Australia (even if only to a lesser degree) we are set to see Nordic Walking play a significant role in the management and prevention of lifestyle-related disease.
Click here for more information about the Certified Nordic Walking Training or freecall 1300 791 740.
NWO International Master Trainer
Co-Founder Nordic Academy