In many European countries, and particularly in Germany, in places, where just a few years ago joggers, walkers, cyclists and inline skaters ruled, you can now see lots and lots of Nordic walking enthusiasts.
No matter where you go: forest trails, city streets, parks, beaches, or mountains, it has become obvious that Nordic walking has become an everyday sight and a fact of life.
During my recent European trip, I have seen people using poles in the most unlikely of places.
Nordic Fitness Magazine thinks that as many as 5 million Germans will be active Nordic Walkers within the next two years. Don’t you think that the Germans might be onto something?
Walking with ski poles is not a new phenomenon. For decades now it has been a part of summer training of Finnish cross- country skiing teams.
In 1997 the first walking poles were introduced, a bit shorter than cross-country ski poles, because an athlete without skis has a shorter stride and because unlike in snow, the tip of the pole does not sink into the snow. It was the beginning of Nordic walking as a fitness sport.
The sport has caught on very quickly in Finland. Today, almost one-quarter of the Finnish population regularly engages in Nordic walking and an estimated 3.5 million European walkers are encouraged by some 3,000 instructors.
Germany, with an estimated 2 million participants, is where the trend has become the most entrenched. Nordic Fitness Magazine thinks that as many as 5 million Germans will be active Nordic Walkers within the next two years
Increasingly, hotels, leisure resorts, and nature reserves are advertising Nordic walking trails, schools, stores and centers. Travel agencies offer Nordic walking tour packages at home and abroad.
At the same time, the number of certified instructors is booming. It is important to realize that although Nordic walking is not difficult to learn, or complicated, starting off with good technique is important. Proper use of the poles and the correct arm motion encourages a good posture and helps achieve a complete workout.
During a relatively easy, low-impact workout with poles, you can easily burn upwards of 400 calories. Considering that a pound of fat equals roughly 3,500 calories, without even dieting, in about 9 one – hour sessions, you could be a full pound lighter, which translates into all kinds of related health benefits.
Faced with frightening national statistics on the rise of chronic illness, back problems and obesity, more and more German insurers are subsidising the cost of Nordic walking fitness courses. The aim is to prevent more expensive-to-treat ailments, such as diabetes, heart disease and slipped discs, down the road.
In Germany physicians are even writing out prescriptions for Nordic walking poles made by Swix and others, and courses in Nordic Walking are offered for both beginners and intermediates.
Most active Nordic walkers say there are bonuses to their sport beyond the fitness aspect. It can be either a solitary, or a social activity. For around $100 you can outfit yourself with all the equipment that you will need and it is also simple. You only have to grab your poles, put on the shoes and you’re on your way!