Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Nordic walking

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[Updated] I’ve now been Nordic walking for a while, and I am extremely happy with it. I used a Nordic Track ski exerciser for years and I liked that a lot because it provides an excellent full-body workout—but it also requires significant apartment space. I knew, though, that I had to find some way to exercise. My life had become almost totally sedentary, each day going by with me in my chair—reading, writing, watching movies. There’s an unsettling, even alarming, consensus of medical and scientific judgments that a sedentary lifestyle is unhealthful to the point of shortening one’s life. Since I enjoy my life, I’d rather go in the other direction. That meant finding an exercise to do daily.

The best motivation for doing an exercise is that the exercise is enjoyable

The idea of making a necessary task enjoyable has always made sense to me (cf. my guide to DE shaving), and exercise is definitely something I (and you) should do—but if it’s not actually enjoyable, doing it becomes difficult. Rather than being pulled to it, one must push himself to do it. That requires willpower, and I like to save that resource for when it is really needed. If I find an exercise that is enjoyable and that attracts me, I won’t need to use any willpower to do it daily because doing it is more fun than not doing it.

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, in its guidelines for starting an exercise program, also stresses that your exercise program should be something you enjoy. They write, “Your goal is to establish an exercise routine you enjoy. Make sure your first activity sessions are fun and not tiring.”

Beyond being enjoyable and apartment-compatible, an ideal exercise for me satisfies 4 additional criteria:

  1. I can do it by myself—it doesn’t require other people (team sports or even just, say, a tennis opponent);
  2. I can do it anywhere—it doesn’t require me to go to a special facility (a court or a gym or fitness center or playing field or pool or lake or the like);
  3. I can do it whenever I want—it doesn’t require that I be some particular place at a scheduled time; and
  4. I can do it with minimal recurring expense—it doesn’t require a monthly membership fee, for example.

Bicycling was enjoyable, and when I bicycled to work, the activity fitted nicely into my daily routine, but I don’t plan to be biking anywhere (and bicycles also take up a fair amount of apartment space). I did plan to walk (and had already started), and the more I learned about Nordic walking, the more I thought it would make the walk more enjoyable and also a better exercise, engaging the muscles of the upper body—and I find full-body exercise much more enjoyable than exercise that does not involve the full body. And a pair of Nordic-walking poles occupies only a tiny amount of apartment space.

After a month of Nordic walking (the walk duration gradually growing to just over an hour—about 7200 steps, 3.8 miles—simply because I enjoyed the activity so much), I got to pondering why Nordic walking is so much more enjoyable for me than regular walking. I think it’s because Nordic walking gives me something to do, as it were. In regular walking, my feet and legs do have something to do (walking) but the rest of me is just along for the ride, so I found I needed some sort of distraction—listening to music, for example, or to audiobooks. But because my hands, arms, shoulders, and back are also involved in Nordic walking, I’m more fully engaged, which makes the walk much more enjoyable.

Sources of information and Nordic-walking poles

Here are some useful links for basic information:

Specific health benefits

There are health benefits in using the poles (and see also this detailed research study), although the primary benefit I sought was to make me look forward to going for a walk. Still, the upper body effects are not negligible; this chart from the research study shows much greater upper-body muscle activity when Nordic walking poles are used:

Screen Shot 2018-07-28 at 12.43.23 PM

Kenneth Cooper, MD, of Aerobics fame, tested Nordic walking and found that it increased the number of calories burned by 20% compared to walking without Nordic walking poles—and “without significantly affecting the rate of perceived exertion by the participants.” Thus in using his table of point values for regular walking, multiply the point values by 1.2 (20% increase) if you are Nordic walking. He recommends a minimum of 35 points per week for men, 27 points per week for women, with the exercises at least 4 days a week and at most 6 days a week. (Note the importance of one rest day a week: it’s possible to overdo cardio exercise.)

My daily Nordic walk (currently 3.8 miles in 65-66 minutes), done 6 days a week, adds up to 47.5 points per week, comfortably above the minimum required for the benefits of the training effect. More details on the aerobic aspect in the link. However: note the risks of abruptly curtailing a walking program.

Types of Nordic-walking poles

Nordic-walking poles come in three types (and see also pole considerations):

  • one-section (not adjustable, so you have to buy the right-length pole for you),
  • two-section (adjustable, so the same poles can be used by persons of different height; also useful in determining the ideal length for you), and
  • three-section (same idea as two-section poles but can be collapsed smaller for packing in a suitcase or backpack—trekking poles are virtually always three-section poles because they are often carried in a backpack).

The ideal (IMO) is the one-section pole, and I now have a pair from Exel, the Finnish company that started Nordic walking in the first place. (I posted a review of the pole I got—scroll down at the link.) The one-section pole has the pleasing simplicity of no moving parts. The two-section pole seems better than the three-section in terms of vibration and strength, the three-section pole’s only advantage being its shorter length when collapsed. (Three-section poles are often named “Traveler” or the like.)

The foot of the pole is a carbide spike for walking on grass or dirt and a removable (and replaceable) rubber paw for walking on hard surfaces like pavement or tarmac. Exel has an interesting variation: a one-piece all-terrain tip — see video above.

Update: My Komperdell Nordic walking poles just arrived! Update later: And I now have upgraded to Excel Pro Curve poles.

Update 2: What I learned in my first formal lesson. As is typical of self-taught practitioners, I fell into some common (and easily corrected) errors. And since Nordic walking, like (for example) rowing and swimming, consists of continual repetition of the same actions, any flaws in technique are multiplied by the number of repetitions and thus their cost grows over time. Update: Second lesson and what I learned.

The video below shows the basics of using the poles, and more instructional videos are on this page.

UPDATE: This is me with my new Exel Pro Curve poles. It’s not evident in the video, but I am pushing back firmly (with my arm straight, so using my shoulders and back) with each step, pushing myself along.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 July 2018 at 2:52 pm

2 Responses

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  1. How do I get a pair of Nordic poles in India. I would like to learn Nordic walking

  2. See the links above. (I don’t know of any dealers in India, but you can search online. You can in some cases order directly from the manufacturer.)

    LeisureGuy

    30 July 2018 at 9:29 am


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