Fitness trends - Fit for (Nordic) Walking
Originally developed as an effective summer training method for top Finnish cross-country skiers, Nordic Walking has become one of the latest fitness trends. Today, increasing numbers of walking enthusiasts use poles for their walking programme.
Walking with poles turns conventional walking into an effective whole-body workout, also strengthening abdominal, chest and arm muscles at the same time. Working the arms increases the heart rate and burns more calories even at low speeds, boosting fat-burning by approximately 20 per cent. Poles thus help trained walkers to enhance their training programmes effectively. Additional benefits when correctly used: releases pain and muscle tension in the neck/shoulder region and reduces the load on back, knees and ankle joints.
This means body load on the lower joints is reduced by five kilos per step when walking on level ground, and eight kilos when walking on hilly terrain, making Nordic Walking suitable for the overweight as well. In addition to a pair of running shoes with shock-absorbing characteristics and treaded outsoles, the most important equipment for anyone wishing to enhance their physical fitness is good walking poles. TÜV SÜD Product Service gives tips on what to look out for when purchasing Nordic Walking poles.
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Sturdy and with rubber pad
Whether carbon or aluminium, walking poles should be lightweight and elastic. This means the poles should return to their original shape after short bending. Walking poles with ergonomic or straight grips are offered by various manufacturers. Select the form you prefer. Important: the pole must feel comfortable to hold. Comfort is also a crucial factor for the strap, which should be made of solid but soft material and be at least 16 mm wide to prevent unpleasant blisters on hands. If your hands are particularly sensitive, we recommend gloves or poles with micro-fleece-padded straps. Shorten the straps to reduce the distance to the grip when around the wrist.
A rubber pad on the pole's tip offers improved grip and shock absorption on tarmac. The pad should therefore not be hard, but of soft yet friction-resistant material such as rubber. When buying the poles it should be tested that the strength in the hands is sufficient to adjust the pole to the correct setting for the body weight necessary.
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High load-bearing capacity prevents falls
Telescopic poles like those used for hiking are particularly useful when travelling. An important feature for adjustable poles is a high-quality locking mechanism, to prevent the poles from suddenly giving way under the weight of the body and resulting in unpleasant falls. The locking mechanism should have a load bearing capacity of at least 55 kg; the more, the better. Additionally, the threaded joints that lock the pole sections after extension should provide for 360° reverse turn security. When used outdoors, the locking mechanism may easily become unlocked but the pole sections must still remain firmly fixed. We additionally recommend checking the strength of the threaded joints periodically.
The length of the poles is critical for optimizing technique.
The following simple formula applies: body length multiplied by 0.7.
Correct technique is crucial in achieving an effective workout with Nordic Walking. After all, lower body movement is essentially determined by the intensity of the arm movements. Swinging the arms too little, for example, will restrict hip and leg work. The wider the pole swings, the longer the stride and the more powerful the swing of both the upper body and pelvis. Even though Nordic Walking can be learnt very quickly, we advise beginners to enrol in one of the courses now offered by many sports clubs.
First-time walkers should also consult their doctors and undergo a physical examination before starting the sport. A heart rate monitor, obtainable from any sports shop, may also be helpful for healthy and performance-oriented body workout. These handy gadgets allow walkers to check quickly and simply while walking that their exercise level lies within the optimum range.