ROCHESTER, Minn. — June 14, 2012. Nordic walking — walking with poles — burns more calories than ordinary walking of the same intensity. However, most people don't feel like they are working any harder, according to the May issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter.
Nordic walking got its start as a summer training method for cross-country skiers. In recent years, its popularity has increased, especially among older adults. Walking poles engage the upper body and can help with stability, improve posture and possibly lessen the impact on joints and muscles.
Practitioners of Nordic walking typically experience slightly higher heart rates than occur with ordinary walking. And, the body consumes more oxygen. In one study, Nordic walking burned about 20 percent more calories over one mile compared to normal walking on the same course. The extra calorie burn may occur because Nordic walking works the muscles of the arms, shoulders, chest, back and torso more than ordinary walking.
The arm and leg movements in Nordic walking are much the same as in ordinary walking. To begin, it's helpful to take a few strides without touching the pole tips to the ground. Walkers progress to taking strides while lightly dragging the pole tips. The next step is to plant the pole tip, gradually increasing the force from gentle to more powerful pole pushes.
Poles designed for Nordic walking are available at many sporting goods stores and on the Internet. Poles are available in adjustable lengths. The forearm should generally be parallel to the ground when gripping a Nordic pole.
As with any new activity, the recommendation is to start at an easy level and gradually increase effort.
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