How does it work?
Walking groups are often led by local branches of rambling associations and 500 groups are registered with UK walking charity ‘Ramblers’ alone.
Although you can walk pretty much anywhere to incorporate some exercise into your day, walking or hiking groups normally organise routes in local areas within counties or a local authority district. Sometimes walks are graded in terms of difficulty (according to their intensity, length or the type of terrain) or divided by age group.
Nordic walking also takes place in groups and provides a more intense workout alternative to regular walking. Nordic walking differs from normal walking as it also exercises the upper body thanks to the inclusion of walking poles. Resembling ski poles, walking poles are designed to help propel the walker along by giving them extra support and leverage as they travel (almost like a second pair of legs). Although this gives the walker the feeling of covering more ground with less effort, it actually tests more muscles as the poles are placed in a specific way rather than simply in front of the walker.
The physical benefits of Nordic walking include: it burns up to 46 per cent more calories than ordinary walking it reduces pressure on the knees and other joints it uses 90% of the skeletal muscles it tones the upper and lower body at the same time *and, like regular walking, it is a great cardiovascular workout that can be adapted to help with endurance conditioning.
Nordic walking is usually taught by qualified instructors who help participants learn techniques which ensure their entire bodies work efficiently. If you are new to Nordic walking, then classes or walks led by experienced teachers are available to help you get started.
Is it for me?
If you are mobile and want to boost your weekly fitness quota, then adding at least a half hour stretch of brisk walking (at a pace that raises your temperature slightly) will get your heart (comfortably) pumping. It allows you to get some fresh air, to get closer to nature and has even been shown to reduce stress levels. You might even make some new friends as you chat along the way.
If you are injured or have a disability that may affect your ability to walk at pace (including heart or breathing problems), try to find a walking group that takes things a little easier or covers flat terrain. Do not be tempted to throw yourself into a rigorous group of experienced walkers either. Steadily built up intensity, duration and pace to build strength and to let your body adapt and remember, wherever you walk to, you have to walk back from!
Good to know...
Nordic walking was invented by Finnish skiers in the 1930s who used their poles during off-season training. They found that the unusual technique gradually gave them a fitness advantage over their competition and as a result, they incorporated it permanently into their regime.