Think those people who look like they are walking outdoors with ski poles look a little goofy?  Well, think again – those people are taking strides towards better health.

It’s called Nordic Walking – quite simply – walking with poles.  It was originally developed in Scandinavia as an off-season ski training activity, and didn’t become an official sport until 1997.

A recent review looked at studies of Nordic walking in over 1,000 study participants, and found beneficial effects on blood pressure, heart rate, and exercise capacity.  They also noted that studies have shown that compared to walking briskly without poles, Nordic walking burns about 20% more calories.    Health and quality of life benefits were also found in people with a wide range of chronic diseases, from cardiac rehab patients, to fibromyalgia, emphysema, peripheral arterial disease, and pain in general.

So why would Nordic walking result in better heart health and higher calorie burn than walking without poles?  Simply because, by using the poles as you go, you are engaging your upper body muscles, increasing your cardiac and respiratory response, and boosting your energy burn.

So, add a pair of poles to your exercise regimen and enjoy the health benefits!  Remember to speak to your doctor before making any changes to your workout routine.

Dr Sue Pedersen © 2013 

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