If using poles seems weird, understand this: Nordic walking not only gives cardio benefits, it also gives you a full-body workout.
This weird activity is very normal in areas of Europe, where it began as ski training and then morphed into a mainstream exercise.
Just like skiing, you use special poles to push yourself forward. Nordic poles are like ski poles, with secure straps and rubber feet to make pushing against the ground easier and lengthen your stride. Allowing you to have a faster pace and use more of your core, chest, arms and shoulder muscles.
This exercise burns up to 46% more calories than normal walking, says Malin Svensson, author of Nordic Walking.
And because it distributes the workload more evenly, the exercise feels easier. Even better: A review in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine discovered that Nordic walking was better than brisk walking at decreasing your blood pressure and resting heart rate, and increasing your aerobic capacity.
Some researchers also discovered that Nordic walking increased people’s oxygen levels and heart rate just as much as jogging did—but in an easier, more joint-friendly way.
And researchers at the University of Florida and Stanford showed that using poles reduced knee joint stress by around 30% compared to walking without them. On top of all this, 90% of your muscles are used when you are Nordic walking.
Nordic walking takes some getting used to. There are Nordic walking tutorials on YouTube, but you start by getting your poles and dragging them by your side as you walk like normal, while maintaining a straight back.
Once that seems natural, you can begin swinging your arms more, reaching them forward like you were shaking someone’s hand, and then letting your grip relax as you bring them behind your hips.