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Natural Awakenings Greater Boston - Rhode Island

Nordic Walking Moves Body and Mind

Aug 27, 2013 11:05PM ● By Katleen Reid, PT

Since the 1990s, Nordic walking has been one of the fastest growing recreational fitness sports in Scandinavia and Europe and has since been introduced in the United States. Enjoyed during any season and on most terrains, Nordic walking has been promoted internationally as a sport and fitness exercise based on the movement of walking; cross country skiing and snowshoeing are two well-known examples of Nordic fitness sports.

Specially designed poles with straps are used while walking to increase the aerobic effect by up to 40 percent and reduce the stress on joints. With each pole placement in the ground, the muscles of the arms, shoulder area and trunk are actively stimulated. The swing of the arms and the powerful placement of the poles influence the length of the strides. A small arm swing means a limited pelvic rotation and a shorter stride length, while increasing the pole movement lengthens strides and increases the rotation of the pelvis and the upper body. A proper Nordic walking technique trains nearly every muscle of the body making it an ideal total body workout for all ages and physical condition.

Straps on the poles allow walkers to relax muscles in the arms and shoulder area between each push off, resulting in a fluid connection between all parts of the body. Walkers can adjust the level of performance by varying the intensity of pole pushes and stride lengths, creating a customized workout each day.

During Nordic walking, the mind becomes engaged in the flow of synchronized movement between shoulders, arms, hands, spine, hips, knees, ankles and toes. It helps people focus forward and facilitates the use of a “soft eye” to the surroundings. Once this flow has been experienced, it easily carries over into other areas of life.

Katleen Reid, PT, is a national Nordic walking coach. Contact her at [email protected]. For more information, visit