Nordic Walking improved my life, it can improve yours too

What is Nordic Walking?

Image from Wikimedia Commons
Nordic Walkers (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

Benefits for your health

  • It is an aerobic exercise, so it helps to work the cardiovascular system and respiratory capacity and to prevent or control different diseases such as type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure. The regular practice of this exercise has made me fit and increased my energy level.
  • It works both the upper and the lower parts of your body, so it is quite a complete sport. It is a more complete exercise than walking because you use up to 90% of your body’s muscles. With normal walking we only really engage the lower half of the body, we use our feet or legs but we don’t get any action or engagement of the core [stomach muscles], the back, the shoulders and the arms. By adding the special Nordic walking poles, we use the muscles in the upper body as well.
  • It is ideal for people who want to lose weight and improve other health parameters. It is ideal for losing weight because it burns up to 46% more calories than walking exercise. Pole walking is also associated with improvements in several health parameters like reductions in “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, waist circumference and increases in “good” HDL cholesterol, endurance, muscle strength, and flexibility. This exercise has helped me to lose the 5 kilos I had left over.
  • It is ideal for all ages. It is a good exercise for older adults as it decreases lower body load and strain and provides two additional points of support by using the two walking poles. Unlike running or jogging, Nordic walking is not aggressive to the ankles, knees, or back since it does not jump when walking. In fact, the use of walking poles in this exercise provides about 25% of the momentum in body movement, thus reducing the impact on the lower body joints.
  • It promotes a good postural hygiene. If the exercise is done well, it stretches the whole back. This is especially interesting as a corrective measure for all the bad postural habits that we have at work or at home, and therefore it can help prevent back pain, especially in the lumbar area, which is a frequent ailment in the population and one of the most frequent causes of sick leave. I can confirm that since I have been practicing Nordic Walking, I no longer have any discomfort in my lower back.
  • It can improve your way of walk. After doing periodically this exercise I have found that I walk better than before. Now I stretch my back more and I walk straighter, with a firmer step. Do not assume that we all know how to walk well, there are people who suffer from physical problems that would be reduced if their way of walk were improved.
Image from “Planeta Nordic Walking”
Muscles used by different sports (Image from “Planeta Nordic Walking”)

Benefits for your mind and spirit

  • It improves the well-being of your brain. Nordic Walking helps reduce stress and anxiety and it is even more effective when done in a green environment since nature is intrinsically good for the spirit. Outdoors exercise (beach, mountain) releases endorphins increasing the feeling of well-being. It provides better oxygenation of the brain, thus increasing brain capacity and all related activities. After doing this exercise regularly I feel more relaxed and focused.
  • It has benefits for the mind whether it is done alone or in a group. If it is done alone, we can relax the mind, focusing on the breath and become aware of the present moment, our emotions, the environment, and our body. When done in a group it encourages conversation, we disconnect and laugh.
  • It helps to make decisions and organize thoughts. Most of us have heard by now that exercise, including walking, generally improves thinking skills, both immediately and in the longer term. Multiple studies have shown that animals and people usually perform better after exercise on tests of memory and executive function, which is essentially the ability to make decisions and organize thoughts.
  • It improves the coordination of the two brain hemispheres increasing our learning ability and creativity. In the “Learning how to learnCoursera course I learnt that we have two different modes of thinking: Focused and Diffuse. We are familiar with the Focused mode; it is when we intentionally focus on something specific that we are trying to learn or create. But we are not so familiar with diffuse mode; it turns out that this more relaxed style of thinking is related to a set of neural rest states. In this diffuse mode of thinking, you can see things from a much broader point of view. You can make new neural connections that go in new directions. Both modes of thinking are complementary, when you are learning something new or generating new ideas your mind needs to be able to go from one mode to the other to optimize this process. The practice of Nordic Walking activates the diffuse mode of thinking; therefore, it is good to practice this exercise after a Focused session of learning or generating ideas. For example, while writing a book called “Nico, the little detective”, I used to rest my mind by doing Nordic Walking. Those walks boosted my creativity, because as I walked, I came up with new ideas that I incorporated into my book.
  • It improves the memory, protects the brain, and delays its aging. Many experiments have shown that after or during exercise, even very mild exertion, people perform better on tests of memory and attention. Walking on a regular basis also promotes new connections between brain cells, staves off the usual withering of brain tissue that comes with age, increases the volume of the hippocampus (a brain region crucial for memory), and elevates levels of molecules that both stimulate the growth of new neurons and transmit messages between them.

Do you want more benefits? Come and see

  • It is a fun exercise (at least for me). There are many things in life that we have to do because we are told to or ought to; exercise should not be one of them. Exercise outdoors, the sense of well-being it provides, the places it takes you, the people you meet, its non-competitive nature, and the ability to be good at it are all part of what makes Nordic walking so unique.
  • It makes you socialize with other people. A common way to start with Nordic Walking is to join a group class where you will meet diverse people in a healthy environment; so Nordic Walking will be a social activity for you — another stress buster, mood enhancer, and friendship creator. This activity will make you socialize with other people during the classes and maybe out of them by sharing excursions or trips. If you are looking for your soul mate you may find him/her there, who knows? It is known that relationships with others are fundamental to living a long and happy life.
  • After creating a good habit such as Nordic Walking, it will be easier for you to create other good habits. For example, it will be easier for you to modify your diet to eat more healthy foods (vegetables, legumes, fruit, whole grains, fish, unsaturated fats — such as extra virgin olive oil) and reduce the consumption of unhealthy foods (pastries, ready meals, sausages, snacks, etc.).
  • After learning something new like Nordic Walking, it will be easier for you to learn other new things. It will open your mind to believe that you can learn more new things, no matter what your age is, since new brain connections can be created at any age. For example, I have learned to draw a little bit lately to make illustrations for my book and I have learned to program in Scratch to introduce my son in computer programming by creating Scratch video games.
  • It will encourage you to discover new places. Nordic Walking will be a gateway for you to explore new places either near or far. For example, it has allowed me to get to know the various senderism routes around Paracuellos de Jarama which is the town where I live. Sometimes you don’t have to go far from where you live to find what you’re looking for.
Camino del Chorrillo. Paracuellos de Jarama.

Do you want to start practicing Nordic Walking?

  • Upper part: ergonomic grip and a glove that maintains the pole attached to the hand.
  • Central part: a strong, light, and rigid or slightly flexible rod.
  • Lower part: a rigid toe cap for walking on dirt roads and a rubber stud for walking on asphalt, specially designed for Nordic Walking.
Images from Wikimedia Commons
Nording Walking poles (Images from Wikimedia Commons)

ALFA 247 methodology

Sequence of movements for Nordic Walking

Conclusions

References

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Telecommunications Engineer based in Madrid, Spain. Interested in technology, writing, education, psychology, health, environment, and improvement of society.

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Virgilio Postigo

Virgilio Postigo

Telecommunications Engineer based in Madrid, Spain. Interested in technology, writing, education, psychology, health, environment, and improvement of society.

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