Peta Bee’s recent article in The Times endorsing walking as the best exercise both pleased and frustrated me!
I shouldn’t be ungrateful. As a fitness professional whose business is all about walking, it is great to see a double page spread in a popular broadsheet extolling its benefits. I just wish Nordic walking was given a higher profile.
The principle problem, I’m sure, is that there just isn’t enough scientific research to support the empirical evidence of us Nordic walkers. Our collective voice isn’t yet loud enough to prick the interest of research funding bodies or journalists.
So here are some of the key messages from Peta’s article supplemented with my own Nordic walking commentary in italics.
- Regular brisk walking can lower your risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes as much as running can. Adding 2,000 moderately paced walking steps a day to regular activity could help you cut your risk of heart attack and strokes by 8 per cent. Doing 4,000 more steps reduces your cardiovascular risk by about 16-20 per cent, which is the equivalent of taking a statin. Did you know that at a Bristol Nordic Walking class you will amass somewhere between 5,000 and 6,000 steps in just one hour, which means all these health benefits are yours!
- Walking is kinder on your joints, with even vigorous walking (like Nordic walking) reducing the impact on vulnerable hips, ankles and knees by 26 per cent. It is also a weight-bearing activity which reduces your risk of osteoporosis. When you Nordic walk you use your upper and lower body and work over 90 per cent of your skeletal muscles (much more than walking or running). In particular, pushing through the strap strengthens your wrists, one of the key fracture danger areas as we get older. You also engage and strengthen your deep abdominal (‘core’) muscles every time you plant the pole, improving your balance and trimming your waistline.
- As well as the physical benefits, walking can improve thinking skills and boost creativity. See my blog ‘Exercise your brain and improve your memory by Nordic walking’ posted a couple of weeks ago.
- Walking can even improve fitness and help you lose weight in the way that running can if you do it properly. At our Nordic walking classes we mix the pace – fast and slow – and include plenty of hills in Ashton Court and at Blaise to inject added intensity. Your body will be challenged and your fitness will improve. Nordic walking also burns up to 46 per cent more calories than ordinary walking so it’s a winner for weight loss and weight management.
- It’s vital to master your walking technique and posture before you push yourself any harder. Possibly the no1 benefit from Nordic walking is on posture. Planting the poles behind you automatically encourages your body to hold itself in a more upright and open position. It means you can increase your speed and intensity without compromising your walking technique or placing stress on your body. Even when you’re not Nordic walking, your body has been ‘switched on’ to a better postural alignment which can help ease back, neck and shoulder problems.
Bristol Nordic Walking is committed to raising awareness of Nordic walking and all it’s health benefits. We also take pride in the fact that we – both our instructors and our walkers – are ahead of the fitness curve in that we have found a total body workout that’s outdoors, sociable and fun. It’s a no-brainer that Nordic walking is the best exercise at any age!