How many layers to wear is the first topic of conversation on almost all our walks, especially during winter.
On a cold and blustery day we huddle around hopping from foot to foot in a freezing car park convinced we need multiple thermal layers, plus hats, gloves and scarves. I chant my mantra ‘be bold start cold’ in an effort to persuade myself as much as anyone that we’ll be hot in no time. But right now no one fully believes it.
Then a little miracle occurs. After a handful of warm-up exercise we get into our Nordic walking stride and within ten minutes we are stopping to peel off those cold weather contingency layers.
Blood circulation is one of the most important functions in the body. It brings nutrient and oxygen rich blood to the brain, muscles and cells, and transports it (with all the waste product) back to the heart. It also makes you warm.
Movement of any sort boosts circulation. It heats the body up and can release muscular tension. But the amazing exercise that is Nordic walking can energise the circulation in your whole body – from the tips of your fingers to the tips of your toes. Here’s seven ways how:
- Roll your shoulders back. Do you tense against the cold, hunching-up your shoulders and curling your body inwards? Unfortunately this makes your body more static, hindering not helping circulation. Instead, roll your shoulders back and relax your neck.
- Lift your chest to allow your lungs to expand fully. Your breathing plays an influential role in your circulation so lift your chest and give your lungs maximum room to inflate. Breathing through your nose also helps as it allows the air to be warmed by the blood vessels and tiny hairs that line the inside of your nose so the air is a little warmer when it reaches your lungs.
- Get a good arm swing going. Swinging your arms is a great way to get the blood pumping round your body. Make sure the swing is from your shoulder and you’re not clamping your upper arm into your body. A strong arm-swing also helps lymph drainage.
- Squeeze your hands round the pole handle. Squeezing your hands acts as a pump to return the blood back up your veins to your heart. You’ll have toasty fingers in the winter and no fat fingers in hot weather. The more actively you squeeze and open your hands the greater the circulatory benefit.
- Work your feet and legs. Dynamically rolling from your heel through to your toes helps push the blood back up your legs to your heart. Squeezing your leg muscles and glutes (bottom) energises your muscles and boosts circulation too.
- Rotate your torso. Gently rotating your upper body encourages the blood to circulate the whole way down your spine, increasing oxygen and nutrients to the discs and vertebrae. It’s utterly brilliant if you have a stiff back.
- Walk briskly. On the flat or even better up hills. Guaranteed to get your heart pumping and your circulation zinging!