Since I first started Bristol Nordic Walking seven years ago I’ve wanted to run a research project comparing ordinary walking with Nordic walking – on the flat, uphill and downhill.  There is already good documented evidence on the benefits of Nordic walking over regular walking but often this is connected to specific health conditions. 

Perhaps it’s the lawyer in me (my first career for those who didn’t know) but I don’t enjoy relying on other people’s analysis when it relates to something I feel able to do myself.  Proper research however is complicated, requiring specific parameters, precise measures, accurate data compilation plus hours of time and utter thoroughness.  Not wishing to do a half-job, I have shelved this idea – until now. 

Thanks to Liz Carver and with your help, this ambition could become a reality.

Liz has been Nordic walking for almost as long as I have and last year she qualified as a Nordic walking instructor.  So she has an excellent understanding Nordic walking.  She also has a research background spanning 34 years in the Advanced Technology Centre of BAE Systems, designing research projects and analysing data.  So her research pedigree is impressive to say the least!  Over the last few months Liz has taken on board my idea and has been working on a research study looking at any differences between walking with and without Nordic walking poles in relation to:

  • Heart rate (resting, peak and average)
  • Calories burned
  • Speed
  • Step count
  • Time taken
  • Perceived exertion

The initial research will be on the flat, but the plan once this project is completed, is to do a similar project on slopes.  We hope to publish the results in a scientific journal as well as posting on the INWA (International Nordic Walking Federation) website but we need your help!

What’s involved in taking part in this research

We would love as many Bristol Nordic Walkers as possible to be involved with this project.  Don’t worry about the quality of your technique, Liz has factored this variable into her study.   You also don’t need your own poles – we can lend you some.  This is what’s involved:

  1. You need to commit to one 3 hour session in Ashton Court.
  2. You will be asked to walk half a mile on the flat 8 times, therefore 4 miles in total.  Four of the trials will be with poles and four without.
  3. To minimize the fatigue effect, Liz’s design is ABBA for half participants and BAAB for the other (A = with poles, B = without poles).  There will of course be breaks in between each trial.
  4. You will be wearing a heart rate monitor during each trial and a step counter.  Both will be provided.
  5. You will be asked to fill in some questionnaires capturing your views before and after the session and between each trial.
  6. Liz will be videoing a small section of each trial to use in our analysis.
  7. You will be in a small group of maximum 6, with staggered starts – it is neither a race nor a competition!
  8. You will walk the first two trials (with and without poles) at your own pace, the third as fast as you can and the fourth back at your own pace.  Everyone will act as their own control.
  9. Your data will be reported anonymously within the study but you will have access to your own specific data.

Once the study is over it will take Liz around two weeks to compile the basic data.  After that she plans to write a brief report and maybe give an annotated Powerpoint presentation (if you’re interested).   Writing a paper will take longer and will have to go through peer review, so nothing would be published until next year.

On the basis of our own empirical evidence (see Rob’s data below) and previous research we are expecting Nordic walking to be the winner, but this is not a foregone conclusion!  It will be fascinating to see the results.  I hope you will also enjoy having your own data analysis.

So please help us if you are able.  The more people we have the better the accuracy of our study.  We’ve tried to offer a mix of dates and times and you can book your slot on our booking system in the same way as you would book a regular walk.  This is of course no fee – just our gratitude.  Here are the dates that Liz is running the trials:

Tuesday 10am Ashton Court

Thursday 10 am Ashton Court

Sunday 10am Ashton Court

12 Sept

14th Sept

17th Sept

19th Sept

21st Sept

24th Sept

26th Sept

28th Sept

1st Oct

Click here to go straight to bookings.

Rob’s data

Rob Ferguson is one of our most regular Nordic walkers.  During this summer he has also been walking to and from work (just under 6 miles each way) without using poles.  Being the gadget man that he is, he has recorded all his walks, averaged them out and compared the data.  The difference for Rob on calories burned between regular walking and Nordic walking is fascinating.  Here’s his stats:
Regular walking:         Km/hr = 7.28, Calories/km = 75.2      (6km distance)

Nordic walking:          Km/hr = 8.22, Calories/km = 102.2    (10k distance)

Nordic walking:          Km/hr = 7.83, Calories/km = 124.8    (21km distance)
On each occasion he was walking/Nordic walking as fast as he could.  Obviously the distances aren’t comparable but the calorie/km is still vastly different.  An increase of 30% over 10km and almost 50% over 21km!

Nordic walking anniversaries

Finally, I know of several of you who have had your two year Nordic walking anniversary this weekend (I’m so impressed you can remember when you started).  So congratulations Zoe, Colin, Jan and Ginny – and anyone else who has been Nordic walking two years this weekend.  We’ve loved every moment of your company and are looking forward to the next two years Nordic waking with you!