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Dr. Bill's Commentaries

Nordic walking   (August 9, 2009)

I recently read an article in Sweet, a British diabetes magazine, about an exercise I had never previously heard of: Nordic walking. Seems like many Brits have never heard of it, either, as the magazine describes it as "now it's making its way to the UK" (and maybe someday to the US!). The authors say the sport of Nordic walking began in Finland, and is apparently widespread in Austria and Germany.

For those of you who are used to skiing jargon, you might know the alternate term for cross-country skiing is "Nordic skiing." And indeed it seems that Nordic walking is similar to cross-country skiing without skis (and without parkas and gloves and other winter gear), as it's done with ski poles, whatever clothing you wish, and of course good walking shoes.

As one website describes it, Nordic walking uses poles to in order to add two major benefits to walking:

* The use of poles means the upper body muscles are used as well as the legs
* The poles help to propel the walker along - this means he/she works harder than usual yet the support given by the poles makes it feel easier!

As usual when I'm confronted by a new concept, the Internet is the place to go to learn more: but sadly for those of us who aren't multilingual (such as myself), many interesting-looking websites about the sport are not in English, such as the website of ANFA (Alpine Nature Fitness Association) and (in Dutch)

But there are many in English, including Nordic Walking UK,Exerstrider, AdventureBuddies, and Nordic Walk Now (you can search for instructors at this last website at their Instructor Search page).

Wikipedia, unsurprisingly, has a discussion, where it is pointed out that "Nordic walking poles are significantly shorter than those recommended for cross-country skiing. Using poles of incorrect length may add stress to the walker's knees, hips and/or back, diminishing the benefits of walking with poles. Nordic walking poles come in both one-piece, non-adjustable shaft versions, and telescoping two-piece or three-piece twist-locking adjustable length versions. Most Nordic walking poles feature grips with special Nordic walking straps, eliminating the need to grasp the pole grips. Some companies offer strapless or old-fashioned loop straps."

David Mendosa discussed "Hiking, Exercise Important for Diabetic Regulation" at his blog at

Finally, there are several helpful videos at YouTube:


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Dr. Bill Quick began writing at HealthCentral's diabetes website in November, 2006. These essays are reproduced at D-is-for-Diabetes with the permission of HealthCentral.

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