Walk Like an Egyptian? No, Like a Nordic.
November 29, 2011 12:36 PM   Subscribe

Does "Nordic Walking" really provide a more robust workout than normal walking?

I am considering taking up Nordic Walking, in part because of claims that it provides a more robust workout than regular walking. Almost every site I've come across claims some form of: "Burns up to 40% more calories than regular walking! Strengthen your upper body! Reduce the stress on the joints!"

I'm looking for something new to boost my exertion level that doesn't involve a gym, can be done while traveling, and in any weather, so long as it's not running/jogging. I love the outdoors and Nordic Walking seems like an ideal way to get more exercise/aerobic activity out of my walks and hikes.

If you're a Nordic Walker, I'd like to hear your comments about your perception of whether it gives you a more strenuous, aerobic, overall workout than regular walking the same distance. Feel free to throw in any comments generally about Nordic Walking, poles, etc...!
posted by webhund to Health & Fitness (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm not a Nordic Walker, but you could test the 40% more calories burned claim yourself. Your heart rate correlates very well with the number of calories you're burning (although it's not necessarily comparable person-to-person). So check your heart rate while walking, check your heart rate while Nordic Walking, and compare!
posted by miyabo at 12:48 PM on November 29, 2011

can be done while traveling

Staying in hotels? Swimming.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:46 PM on November 29, 2011

OMFG yes! I don't do "nordic walking" per se, but I did recently start using trekking poles for my walks up our local dormant volcano.

What a transformation! Not only do I walk faster and farther, but walking uphill no longer hurts my back and knees. What's more, it's changed from something I drag myself to do 2-3x/week to a treat that I actively scheme to do almost every day.

The combination of trekking poles + a good uphill climb + a music playlist in the range of 110-130 beats per minute puts me into a groove that just feels fantastic. (I use Tangerine to build iTunes playlists based on bpm.)

I started with cheap-ass $20 poles off eBay for a few months, then got these. I like the smaller foam grip (I have small hands), and the anti-shock is helpful on pavement. I read that for nordic walking, you're supposed to adjust them up to armpit height. That feels too high to me, so mine are more like waist level. Just experiment and do what feels right for you.

I also wear gel palm bike gloves, and Z-Coil shoes, which look bionically dorktastic but have helped a lot to make my stride straighter and more pain-free.

You know what they say about how the best exercise is the one you love? It's really true. I love my trekking poles. They have turned me from a reluctant exerciser to a self-motivated athlete.

In fact, I think I'm going to grab my poles and go up the hill right now!

Feel free to ask if you have any other questions.
posted by ottereroticist at 2:01 PM on November 29, 2011 [4 favorites]

This suggets that the effect is most significant on hilly terrain:

"Pole walking: Walking poles have been making the transition from alpine trails to urban paths in recent years, adding an upper-body component to the walking workout. There has been a flurry of studies on "Nordic walking," as it's called, suggesting that using poles results in higher heart rate, more oxygen use and a quicker pace.

On the other hand, Thorsten Schiffer and his colleagues from the German Sport University Cologne recently determined that the poles don't do anything to push you forward on flat terrain. "The work of the upper extremities seems to be a luxury effort for Nordic walkers," he concluded.

More research is needed, but it appears that the poles won't help you reach your destination any sooner, but might help burn a few extra calories and keep your arms working."
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 2:08 PM on November 29, 2011

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