The following article was published Thursday January 29th, 2009 in the Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada newspaper and was written by Hanne Armstrong.
In Europe these days there are more Nordic walkers than hikers and joggers combined, according to the Canadian Nordic Walking Association website, and the activity is catching on in New Brunswick. You can find out about it and try it out in Riverside-Albert Feb. 21.
"Unlike many sports, where you need a lot of equipment, you only need a pair of poles for this," said enthusiast Sharon Wells of Hopewell Hill.
Poles for walking? It started in Finland more than 70 years ago as cross-country skiers used their poles to continue training in the summer months. Gradually, walking with poles became an activity for keeping in shape in and of itself.
Why would you want to encumber a good walk with a pair of poles? Lots of reasons: Two to three hundred more muscles are used in Nordic walking than in running or regular walking, so you're getting a broader workout. Over 100 more calories per hour are burned in Nordic walking than regular walking, though running still leads in this department at around 600. And it's very low-impact on leg joints.
"Because of the pushing movement you get with the poles," she explained, "a great deal of strain is taken off knees and ankles."
It's an activity anyone in any physical condition and of any age, can participate in and enjoy. And it's a great way to help yourself get into or stay in shape, so much so that Footloose, a program begun by the Albert County Health and Wellness Centre in 2007 to get people walking, encourages it.
Footloose is holding a Nordic walking event Feb. 21, beginning at the Riverside-Albert Recreation Centre with a demonstration of Nordic walking by Yennah Hurley of Saint John's Rockwood Park DayTripping. She'll have poles on hand for people to try out and some pairs for sale.
"Nordic walking is the perfect exercise to accompany a good nutrition plan," Hurley said.
Following the demonstration, those interested in Nordic walking are invited to go on a walk from the recreation centre to Crooked Creek Lookout to enjoy a great view before heading back. The walk should take about an hour. Everyone is welcome, whether they choose to try Nordic poles or not.
Footloose's Nordic walking event is intended to raise awareness of this increasingly popular fitness activity, which is recognized by the Heart and Stroke Foundation of New Brunswick and the New Brunswick Department of Culture, Wellness and Sport.
Not only does Nordic walking help your health and conditioning, if you try it you'll find it's relaxing and exhilarating at the same time. If you're overweight and don't think you can manage an hour-long walk, you may be pleasantly surprised at how much the poles help you.
"I walk 40 to 60 minutes per day," said Wells, who credits Nordic walking plus a nutritional plan with being freed from blood pressure medication and insulin injections, and with her dramatic weight loss.
Whether you want to get into condition or improve your conditioning, Nordic walking may be what you're looking for. You can walk when you choose to, alone or with friends. It's a trend worth looking into.