So you’ve probably heard walking is “in” (#HotGirlWalk is still trending). But not only is walking en vogue, but it’s also become the “it” form of movement to prioritize. After all, it can improve cardiovascular fitness, strengthen your bones, muscles, and endurance, increase your energy levels, strengthen your immune system, and reduce stress, not to mention improve your mood, cognition, memory, and sleep. From the Taylor Swift treadmill workout to wine walks, walking fans have a variety of styles and vibes to choose from.
And now for the latest iteration taking over FitTok: Nordic walking. Picture cross-country skiing, but lose the skis and keep the poles, and take a stroll—whether along a sidewalk or trail—instead, and you’ve got the fitness trend in a nutshell (no snow required). The difference between traditional walking and Nordic walking? The use of walking poles to engage your arms and shoulders (more on that to come). Keep reading to learn more about the workout, its benefits, and how to adapt it to your fitness routine.
What Exactly Is Nordic Walking?
Originating in Finland and designed as an off-season training regimen for cross-country skiers, the full-body, low-impact exercise involves using specially-designed poles to engage the shoulders, arms, and core muscles. Consider it upping the ante on your regular walking by simultaneously working your upper body.
According to the American Nordic Walking Association, the key to Nordic walking is keeping the poles close to the body at a 45-degree angle with the ends always planted behind your body (not straight up and down in front of your body), leaning slightly forward, and opening and closing the hands with each step. Simply put, the idea is to use the poles to propel you forward. The more you practice, the easier you’ll walk the (Nordic) walk. If you’re a visual person, take to TikTok or YouTube to get an idea of the proper technique. Start with a flat, leveled surface (think: your neighborhood or a park) until you get the hang of the motions. Then, you can work your way up to more rugged, uneven terrain, like trails.
Bottom line: All you need is a solid set of poles (and ideally some nice weather) to get in your Nordic walking era. Look for a pair that is the right length for your height and grip and has wrist straps that are higher quality or glove-like to prevent wrist injury. Excuse me while I hit up Amazon to grab my very own set.
#fittok tipoftheday: incorporate some #nordicwalking into your #cardio routine! #PowerWalking is one of the best workouts in the world: it’s accessible, lowimpact, and amazing for your health, #fatburning and mentalwellness. You can do it every day to #loseweight and reduce your risk of diabetes. But did you know that you can amplify all of these benefits AND reduce risk of falling (due to age, #jointpain etc) by tapping into the european #fitness routine of Nordic Walking? More #muscles used – core, #upperbody – means a better #calorieburn and a more effective workout fit for any age and ability, from #athletes to novices. It’s fun, #affordable and personally motivates me to (sometimes!) walk outside when it’s cold. Make sure to learn the basics – not just for your safety but also to ensure you maximize all the fitness benefits. Or grab your poles and join me. Enjoy!
The Health Benefits
Provides a low-impact activity
Step aside, running, burpees, and jump squats (read: more traditional forms of cardio). Nordic walking can get your heart pumping without the stress on your joints. Walking with poles helps redistribute weight across your four limbs, reduce joint loading, lower the risk of back, neck, and knee pain that typically comes with prolonged high-impact exercises, and increase muscular strength.
Works the whole body
Nordic walking is different from a regular walk because you’re still putting your lower body muscles to work, but you’re activating up to 90% of your muscles, as opposed to just 50% with average walking. Because the poles add strength training and cardio components for the upper body, working the arms, shoulders, upper back, and core, you’re engaging in a total-body workout, Stephanie Mansour, a personal trainer, told TODAY.
The range of motion used while walking with poles mobilizes and strengthens your upper body, which can help counteract the hunched-over position we know all too well from incessantly scrolling on our phones (looking at you, tech neck). In fact, a 2017 study analyzed female office workers who completed a 12-week Nordic walking training routine, and researchers found that they had greater shoulder mobility and less pain in their trapezius muscles.
Boosts cardiovascular health
More good news: Nordic walking not only does your whole body good, but it also lends to major TLC for your heart health. A study published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology found that people with coronary artery disease (the most common type of heart disease in the US) had the best improvements in functional capacity—a measure of an individual’s ability to exercise or do things that require some physical effort—when they did Nordic walking for three months over HIIT and moderate-to-vigorous intensity continuous training (MICT). Heart disease or not, the American Journal of Preventative Medicine affirmed that Nordic walking provides beneficial effects on resting heart rate, blood pressure, exercise capacity, maximal oxygen consumption, and quality of life in patients with various diseases and, therefore, can be a form of prevention for a wide range of people.
Strengthens cognitive function
Anyone looking to mix up their workouts with a fun, accessible, and social activity stands to reap the many perks of the walking fitness trend. Dr. Abbie Jones (AKA TikToker @blamedr.abbie) encourages taking a Nordic walk every day—no matter your age. “If you’re worried about the cognitive decline or just generally want to keep your brain healthy, you should be engaging your walking muscles, your brain power muscles, and your grip strength every single day,” Dr. Jones suggested. So just how do you use Nordic walking to improve brain health and prevent cognitive decline? Pair your Nordic walking with a cognitively-stimulating task, such as telling your workout BFF what you learned about a new topic you’re interested in and don’t know much about (lymphatic drainage massage, anyone?). The result? You’re activating your long-term memory and practicing a new skill while improving your overall physical health, engaging multiple areas of your brain at once, and enjoying a nice day.
Nordic walking while doing something cognitively taxing is SO good for your brain. I like to listen to challenging podcasts or audiobooks. You might enjoy recalling something you learned about the night before and engaging with someone while you walk. You could start with counting backwards from 107 by 6’s… if it makes you think hard, it counts! #cognitivedecline #adhd #neurodivergent #alzheimer #brainhealth #neuropsychology #psychologistsoftiktok #fyp #nordicwalking #learn #science #summer