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Kick Your Daily Stroll Up A Notch

Nordic walking includes lightweight poles to add upper-body sculpting to your trek

spinner image Fitness guru Kathy Smith

As more and more boomers are finding, strapping in to a set of trekking poles can be a good way to take your fitness walk up a notch or to give you a bit more stability on all kinds of terrain.

“Nordic walking is the total-body form of walking,” explains Kathy Smith, fitness pioneer and author of New York Times best-selling book Moving Through Menopause. “When you use poles to walk, you’re not only powering your legs; you’re also working your chest, back and arm muscles to propel you, giving your entire body a workout.”

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Called Nordic walking because it started in Finland in the early 1990s as a way for cross-country skiers to train in the off-season, this low-impact form of power walking gained popularity due to its research-backed benefits. Using the ski-liketelescoping poles boosts your stride and burns up to 46 percent more calories than regular walking. Nordic walking has also been shown to strengthen and tone the upper-body muscles and improve balance and stability. Because of the subtle spinal rotation involved in planting and then trailing your poles behind you, this kind of trekking builds core strength, too, which in turn improves posture. 

Nordic walking is the total-body form of walking.

—Kathy Smith

What's more, studies show that pole walking helps reduce blood pressure, regulate heart rate and improve oxygen consumption — all critical for a healthier heart

The key to Nordic walking, which typically takes practice to perfect, is starting with the right poles. Look for lightweight telescoping trekking poles; you can purchase them online for between $20 and $200 (or more).

From there it’s all about form. To power your walk, plant a pole with each step, then push off with it more than you lean on it.

“Using poles while walking tricks the body into using a more upright posture,” Smith explains. “This reduces stress on the knees, shins, hips and back.”

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