The number one form of physical activity in Canada and indeed, globally, is walking. It is so enjoyable. It requires no skill acquisition. We have been walking since we were toddlers. You can just step outside and off you go, with the only required equipment being a good pair of walking shoes. No membership fees are required. If it were a drug, it would be making headlines in the print media. It would be a leading topic on TV news because of its illness preventing power, because of its health-restoring potential, because it is more powerful than most drugs for improving mental health. But there is no multi-national corporation selling it so walking is not in the spotlight. Because it is free and doesn’t require a doctor’s prescription, it is hugely under-rated as an effective treatment for so many illnesses. However, google “walking is a wonder drug” and you will see lots of evidence-based articles, from presentations to the Canadian Senate by Green Communities Canada to publications from the Harvard Medical School.
“After four million years of development and improvement, our bodies have been fine-tuned to walk. Evolution has made the ability to walk a priority. Not only have we had to walk for survival – to pick fruit or reach the river, but our bodies have also needed to walk to continue to function normally. In fact, when we stop walking for any length of time, our bodies start to go into decline.” – Walking for Health, Dr. William Bird & Veronica Reynolds
This graphic from the organization America Walks highlights the many super powerful health benefits of walking:
The Additional Benefits of Urban Poling/Nordic Walking
If walking is indeed a wonder drug, then Urban Poling/Nordic walking is the extra, extra strength dose, multiplying and adding to the mental and physical health benefits:
- It turns a walk into a full-body workout, utilizing virtually every muscle in your body. This includes all the core muscles of your trunk. When you walk 1 km, you will be contracting your abdominals with every step you take. You take over 1,000 steps when walking a kilometre which means you will contract your abs over 1,000 times by planting the pole with every step you take, pushing on the ledges of your ergonomically designed Urban Poles and powerfully propelling yourself forward.
- Because you are using virtually every muscle in your body when Nordic walking, the oxygen consumption and caloric expenditure are increased, compared to walking. On average, the increase in the amount of calories burned compared to simple walking is 20%. Reference: http://www.cooperinstitute.org/nordic-walking
- Regular physical activity helps to regulate blood glucose and increase insulin sensitivity. The more muscles that are used, the greater will be the benefits. This makes Nordic walking one of the best forms of fitness for diabetics and pre-diabetics as it uses 90% of the body’s muscles, providing aerobic and strength training at the same time. It has the potential to slow the progress of type 2 diabetes, reduce the use of medication and even prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes.
- The gentle nature of the activity, plus the increased caloric expenditure generated, make it an ideal activity to complement a weight management program.
- When utilizing correct technique, the significant downward forces on the poles transfers significant weight from the lower body to the upper body, reducing the stress on the knees, hips and lower back. This frequently results in a lessening or elimination of pain symptoms, making Nordic walking an ideal activity for persons with arthritis, those recovering from lower body injuries and/or surgery and overweight individuals.
- When using Nordic walking technique during hiking, it results in less fatigue to the legs and buttocks muscles and more work for the upper body, allowing people to hike longer in comfort. Because the arms and hands are being used, it lessens or prevents the swelling of the hands and fingers that is common on long hiking days. This happens because of the increased blood flow to the extremities caused by the increased cardio activity, but poor return of blood from the hands because they are not being used.
- Walking with poles provides people with four points of contact with the ground. This markedly increases stability on all sorts of terrain, 4 seasons of the year. Think of walking with poles as providing humans with 4-wheel drive. This benefit makes Nordic walking the perfect activity for older adults and persons with mobility/balance issues including Parkinson’s, MS, and people recovering from stroke and traumatic head and spinal injury as well as hikers tackling challenging terrain.
- Nordic walking promotes excellent posture, combatting the “banana posture” so prevalent today due to prolonged sitting in front of screens.
- Because of its excellent aerobic conditioning potential and strength training potential, it is an excellent cross-training activity for athletes. Indeed, Nordic walking originated as off-season training for competitive cross country skiers!
- Nordic walking gets people outside, where they can also experience the health enhancing, immune system boosting, mental health improving benefits of immersion in nature – walking amongst trees, walking alongside water, enjoying wonderful scenery, seeing wildlife and wildflowers, hearing the sounds of nature, smelling the intoxicating smells of nature, the texture of natural surfaces underfoot, the thrill of experiencing sunrises, sunsets and starts, to name a few.