Active Aging through Nordic Walking
Active aging is all the buzz. A healthy lifestyle is only 30 minutes a day away. We need to move our bodies, to work our hearts, to challenge our minds and to be with others to maintain overall fitness and health. And yet it’s so often the one thing we give up as we age.
We know we need to be active to be healthy. Limiting our activity causes our bodies, minds and spirits to deteriorate. Nordic walking, the simple addition of specially designed poles to your walk, is an easy and safe way to get the exercise that you need to remain healthy throughout your retirement years.
My name is Linda Lemke, aka the Nordic Walking Queen of the Twin Cities. A fitness walker for 24 years, I added Nordic walking poles to my routine four years ago. As soon as I had the poles in my hands and took my first steps, I was hooked. I have been trained by both LEKI and ANWA (American Nordic Walking Association) as a Nordic Walking Instructor and Trainer. Through the many classes, community events and corporate programs I led over the past 3 years I personally introduced more than 1500 people to the joys and benefits of Nordic walking. It has been my pleasure to walk with people of all ages and all fitness levels, many with activity restricting physical limitations. It is a life changing experience to participate in an outdoor “sport” that everyone enjoys while reaping the benefits of an all body workout.
Walking is the most natural exercise that we as humans can do. Walking for fitness can reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes and osteoporosis by up to 50%. It can cut your risk of breast and colorectal cancer and improve your mental health (Prevention Magazine).
Studies of walkers show that along with stronger bones, better weight control, and better sleep, walkers report lower stress levels than both those who don’t walk at all and those who engage only in very strenuous exercise. A recent article from the American Diabetes Association found that a combination of aerobic activity (such as walking) and strength training (Nordic walking) improves diabetes control. New research from the Center for the Advancement of Health (April 15, 2008) found that regular exercise, particularly walking, is an effective combatant of fatigue associated with cancer treatment.
So let’s walk! Let’s make it the best walking we can do, Nordic walking. It’s easy, it’s safe and if you can walk, you can Nordic walk. Using the poles to create resistance against the ground with every step engages your whole body, including your brain, in a healthy fitness activity.
It all started in Finland, with Nordic skiers using their poles to maintain upper body strength and cardio fitness during summer workouts. Fitness professionals worked with poles to bring the activity to a walker’s level, allowing all of us to experience the benefits of Nordic walking.
And just what are those benefits? It’s for everyone! Regardless of age, gender, fitness level or limitations anyone can enjoy Nordic Walking. Everyone can participate at their own fitness and comfort level and receive the same benefits.
- It’s safe; the poles add stability and balance to your walk. All Nordic walking poles feature a removable rubber boot for walking on hard surfaces and a hard spike tip that can be exposed when walking on grass or dirt. The poles put you in a 4 wheel drive position, helping to ensure you don’t fall.
- It’s easier on your joints. Do you experience any knee, hip or low back pain when walking? The poles help support those joints, creating less stress and thus less pain.
- It’s great for your posture. You’ll stand taller and more upright when walking with poles as you exercise your upper back and shoulder and core muscles.
- It helps you breathe deeper as you walk, creating better lung capacity and oxygen consumption. Healthy lungs are less prone to infections.
- It burns up to 40% more calories over walking without poles, contributing to weight loss and control.
- It increases your heart rate 10-12 beats per minute faster than walking without poles. Use your conversations to help regulate your heart rate, when it’s a little difficult to talk and walk you’re in a good working heart zone.
- It’s weight- bearing exercise for your upper body , creating healthy bones and helping to stave off osteoporosis.
- It exercises your brain, requiring coordination of your upper and lower body, right and left sides and gripping and releasing the poles. Your brain will be actively engaged with each step.
- It’s social. Nordic walking is one of the few fitness activities that allows you to walk and talk with your friends at the same time. Isolation is a contributor to depression, so why not get out and Nordic walk with your friends.
- It’s fun! Nordic Walking has a rhythm and flow to it that creates an energy all its own. Many walkers report a “zen” feeling from Nordic walking.
Today there are many different Nordic walking poles available. They look a lot like a cross country ski pole with a strap that keeps the pole close to your hand and a rubber boot covering the hard spike tip. Nordic Walking poles are different from Trekking or Hiking poles. Think of a Trekking pole as an off road mountain bike and the Nordic walking pole as a road bike and you’ll understand the difference. One is for working your way through uneven territory and the other is all about speed and distance. Two different poles made for two different uses. You want to be sure to match the pole to your activity.
Nordic Walking poles are available in fixed lengths or as adjustable poles. Adjustable poles are ideal if you’re going to use the poles on a variety of surfaces. Whichever pole you purchase, be sure that there are informed Nordic walking enthusiasts to help you pick out the best style and correct height for you. The proper length and pole will contribute to your safety and enjoyment of Nordic walking.
At Hoigaard’s we carry a selection of LEKI Nordic walking poles. LEKI is the leading pole company in the world and they are dedicated to bringing Nordic walking to everyone. We offer three price points as well as two styles of traveler poles that collapse to fit in a suitcase. There really isn’t a beginner, intermediate, advanced pole, it’s all about how you will use the pole and how active a walker you are.
The best part of my job is introducing new walkers to Nordic walking. We offer Nordic walking Tuesdays (poles provided free of charge) during the spring and summer months, meeting and walking all over the Twin Cities. I also lead small group demonstrations and classes. More information is available on the Hoigaard’s website, www.hoigaards.com.