Nordic walking is the specific practice of walking with two mid-length, thin but sturdy, especially designed poles with wrist straps, and can be practiced for both exercise and enjoyment. It is suitable for non-athletes as a health promoting physical activity, as well as for athletes as a sport, or as part of their fitness training.
It is recommended to learn the Nordic Walking technique through a certified practitioner.
Nordic Walking is estimated as producing up to a 46% increase in energy consumption compared to walking without poles, yet it is a low impact activity, and therefore gentle on the joints. Compared to regular walking, Nordic Walking (also called Pole Walking) involves applying some force to the poles with each stride - the poles are not planted in front of the walker, but in a specific way to increase the use of the upper body muscles, thus using the entire body but without putting strain on any joints. The rhythmic cadences of the arms, legs and body are similar to those used in normal, vigorous walking, and the range of arm movement regulates the length of the stride. The longer the pole thrust, the longer the stride, and the more powerful the swing of the pelvis and upper torso is.
Nordic Walking poles must be matched to the user, and the wrist straps are essential, as they eliminate the need to grasp the grips tightly. With relaxed wrist, hand, arm, shoulder and neck muscles, one has the ability to move with more fluidity. The poles also provide extra stability for older participants, and those rehabilitating from an injury or a surgery.
Nordic walking poles come with removable rubber tips for use on hard surfaces and hardened metal tips for trails, the beach, snow and ice. Most poles are made from lightweight aluminium, carbon fibre or composite material. Special walking shoes are not required, although available.
Nordic walking is a modern sport originating from Finland; for decades in the 1900s, athletes in Finland had been training for winter cross-country skiing by walking in the summers with just the ski poles, which they called “ski-walking.” While trekkers, backpackers and skiers have been using the basic concept for decades, Nordic Walking was first formally defined with the publication of "Hiihdon lajiosa" (translation: " part of cross-country skiing training methods") by Mauri Repoin in 1979. In 2000, the International Nordic Walking Association was established, and today, millions of Nordic Walkers from 40 countries across the globe enjoy the sport, which now sees athletes competing in Nordic Walking World Cup.