There was a flurry of Nordic walking activity last Tuesday as the popular press picked up on Teresa May’s walking holiday in the Swiss Alps.  Interviews were kicking off left right and centre about just what Nordic walking was (you may have heard them on the radio) and what its benefits were. 

Disappointingly, we didn’t get onto the Jeremy Vine show on Radio 2 - but I had a fun chat with Paulina and Ed from Heart Radio on their breakfast show.  Listening to the chatter, I realised that there is still a huge amount of ignorance surrounding Nordic walking and also that the proponents of Nordic walking often explain it very poorly.  However, there’s no such thing as bad publicity so the saying goes and it was good to hear Jeremy Vine say in his introduction that the popularity of Nordic walking has ‘gone through the roof’.

The interesting thing is that Teresa May isn’t actually Nordic walking.  At least, she’s not using Nordic walking poles.  Here’s the key differences between Nordic walking and trekking (should anyone happen to ask you!).

Main Purpose:


Nordic walking


Support whilst hiking and mountaineering

Enhanced walking for health and fitness





Nordic walking


Tracks, mountains, but can be used anywhere

Best on tracks, grass, sand - not ideal on rocky terrain


Poles – main features


Nordic walking


  • poles are always adjustable, usually in three sections (for ease of carrying on side of pack when not in use whilst trekking)
  • poles can be fixed length       or adjustable


  • a loop strap which fits loosely round the wrist
  • a glove like strap


  • a chunky handle with groves for thumb and fingers and often a ‘ledge’ for hand to rest on
  • an ergonomically designed handle so pole can be pushed behind the walker


  • baskets at the bottom which are interchangeable depending on terrain
  • speed spikes at the bottom (on Exel poles) to improve plant and propulsion

How they’re used:


Nordic walking


  • planted in front of the walker
  • angled backwards to help propel the walker forwards


  • walker’s hand rests on the handle and walker pushes down through this rather than the strap


  • walker pushes through the strap, not the handle


  • used as support and balance
  • used for acceleration, total body exercise and support


  • going downhill, poles are planted in front in a checking action to provide support and protect knees
  • going downhill, poles are planted behind and walker leans back into poles - to protect knees and improve balance

The Olympic legacy

I don’t know about you but my whole family have been bleary eyed this week, staying up late to watch the Olympics and the fantastic success of Team GB.  We have all been totally inspired and as a tribute to the games, with the help of some of our walkers, we have come up with our own olympic move:  The Nordic walking equivalent to the dressage ‘flying change’.  In dressage it’s where a horse changes it’s lead foot.  In Nordic walking it’s where humans attempt to do the same whilst double arm polling.  Watch it and enjoy!