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What Is Nordic Walking? Everything You Need to Know

Beth Bradford

May 11, 2023

This energetic form of physical activity has a lot of benefits, and it's quickly becoming one of the most popular outdoor activities in the world.

Nordic walking combines regular walking with the use of specialized poles that help to propel your body forward. This activity intensifies regular walking and adds an extra layer of intensity. The movements required for Nordic walking work your muscles more than regular walking does, so it’s great for strengthening and toning your entire body.

Not only that, but Nordic walking also helps improve cardiovascular health, provides a good overall workout, and is great for spending time in nature and fresh air! In this article, we will discuss in detail what Nordic Walking is, how to do it correctly, the health benefits of nordic walking, and what equipment you need to get started.

What Exactly Is Nordic Walking? A Brief History and Overview

Nordic walking is a form of exercise that was developed in Finland about 30 years ago. It's essentially walking with poles for extra support, balance and intensity. If you’re a fan of snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, you'll recognize the technique—it's essentially those same movements without the skis or snowshoes (or snow)!

Though it was originally developed as a summer training regimen for cross-country skiers in Finland, Nordic walking has become popular all over the world as a full-body exercise. The vigorous pole walking movement works 90 percent of your body’s muscles as well as providing an enjoyable outdoor activity with plenty of health benefits. With proper technique, participants can reach up to 50% more muscles than simply walking alone—more speed and intensity with little impact to joints or ligaments.

The Benefits of Nordic Walking: Why It's Superior to Regular Walking

Nordic walking is an exercise popular in Scandinavia, but it's gaining momentum all over the world. You may be wondering: what makes it different from traditional walking? The answer is simple—it utilizes both the upper and lower body by adding the use of poles. By pushing off against these poles while walking you can burn up to 20-40% more calories than regular walking, making it a great activity for people looking to boost their energy expenditure.

Additionally, Nordic walking offers a variety of mental and physical health benefits that regular walking does not. These include improved stability and balance, increased muscle strength and tone, greater flexibility, improved posture and better joint mobility. Because of its intensity, Nordic walking also increases your oxygen uptake quickly and helps you work up a good sweat in less time than regular walking. Research in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine shows that nordic walking can improve your resting heart rate, blood pressure, exercise capacity, and quality of life in people who have chronic disease. 

The outdoor nature of Nordic walking also puts you in touch with nature, which has been found to lower stress levels, improve mental well-being, reduce anxiety and even limit depressive symptoms. Nordic walking can also be a nice mindfulness meditation. Plus the added addition of poles allows you to explore a variety of terrains – from mud to rocky trails– so your workout is never boring!

How to Do Nordic Walking: The Proper Technique

Nordic walking is a fitness activity that requires more than just regular walking. To maximize the benefits of Nordic walking and to avoid any potential injuries, it is important to learn the proper technique.

The Basics

Nordic walking is done with special poles that are designed to assist your body in propelling forward with each swing. The correct form for Nordic Walking involves pivoting from the hips, using a full range of motion and pushing off the ground with each step. It's important to keep your arms slightly bent and parallel to the ground when taking strides, so as not to absorb too much of the shock from contact with the ground.

Pro Tips

In order to get the most out of your Nordic Walking session, here are four additional tips:

  • Make sure you’re standing tall, with your back straight and chest forward as you walk. This will ensure proper posture and prevent back issues down the line.

  • Keep your hands light on the poles—their purpose is not to pull you forward but rather simply propel you along as you move.

  • Move naturally when you walk—try not to make big or exaggerated movements with your arms or legs, as this can lead to more strain on the body than is necessary during Nordic Walking.

  • Take it slow—especially if you’re new to Nordic Walking, take some time in between strides so that you can adjust your breathing accordingly and give yourself time to master your technique before increasing speed or distance.

The Equipment You Need to Get Started With Nordic Walking

Nordic walking does not require complex or expensive equipment - in fact, you likely already have everything you need. The two most essential pieces of gear are the proper walking poles and a good pair of walking shoes.


The perfect pair of poles for nordic walking should be lightweight and adjustable to fit anyone's height and stride length. You'll want a pole that is slightly bent at the handle with an ergonomic grip for added comfort. For best results, look for poles made out of carbon fiber or aluminum.


The right shoes are just as important as the right poles – look for shoes that provide added support and cushioning with a good grip on most surfaces. Look for a shoe that is lightweight but still offers good arch support and plenty of traction on different types of terrain.


The nordic walking technique is an easy and accessible way to introduce a more intensive and effective form of exercise into your daily routine. It not only strengthens your body and helps you burn calories but also provides a great way to enjoy the outdoors, release stress, and free your mind. By learning the technique properly, understanding the equipment, and knowing the benefits, you’ll be well on your way to experiencing the best Nordic walking has to offer.

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