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Nordic Walking: Walk Your Way to Health

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Walking is one of the most accessible and effective forms of fitness. It improves our health, alleviates depression and fatigue, lightens our mood, prevents weight gain, increases our endurance and circulation, and the list goes on. In the same vein, did you know that walking with two poles can help you burn up to 20 to 60% more calories than conventional walking?

Nordic walking started when a Finnish gym teacher named Leena Jääskeläinen in Viherlaakso, Helsinki, Finland started to teach “walking with ski poles” in her school’s physical education class. Decades later, in 1987, Leena presented this idea to the participants of the Finlandia Walk in Tampere, Finland.

There are many benefits of Nordic walking. One study conducted by Stanford University in the United States shows that walking of any kind promotes the free flow of ideas and can increase creative thinking by an average of 60%! In a meta-analysis of eight studies involving cardiovascular disease patients who participated in a Nordic walking regimen, some saw a notable improvement in their exercise capacity and were able to exercise longer. They also experienced a higher oxygen uptake compared to the patients in standard cardiac rehabilitation programs.

The way that Nordic walkers carry themselves forward by pushing down and backwards with the poles activates the muscles of the abdomen all the way up to the back muscles and helps to straighten the spine to improve posture. Several studies suggest that Nordic walking is one of the effective ways to lessen chronic pain in the neck, shoulder, back, hips and knees. The poles help to share some of the body weight and remove pressure from the spine, thus reducing the number of muscle spasms and pain as well.

Another finding suggests that weeks of Nordic walking training for people with Parkinson’s disease can help enhance their posture control and improve functional balance too. The process of learning to walk with poles can stimulate the generation of new motor learning and promote neuroplasticity, which is our brain’s ability to reorganize neural networks to adapt to a new environment.
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