What may look like a bizarre form of cross-country skiing to you is something called Nordic walking, and it is slowly becoming the hottest walking trend to take over city streets and trails. The idea originated from cross-country skiers in Finland looking for a way to train during the summer months. The Finnish company Exel Oyj is credited with inventing the sport in 1997, and since then Nordic walking has become hugely popular throughout Europe. Today, more than 3.5 million walkers in that country use poles to boost their walking workout. The United States has been slow to embrace the sport.

Who Is Nordic Walking?

Five years ago, only hikers and a few fitness walkers were using poles. Today, this demographic is expanding. Baby Boomers are finding Nordic walking an ideal way to keep their heart rate up while saving wear and tear on their joints.

  • Kurt Doctor, owner of Foot Solutions in Tigard, OR, was a jogger plagued with aching knees. Stationary cycling proved to be a boring alternative. He turned to Nordic walking and discovered it’s “a much better workout than the bike, and I enjoy it more than jogging. In fact, it’s quickly become my favorite exercise.”
  • By using more muscles, more calories are burned — the Cooper Institute claims using poles can increase calorie expenditure by as much as 46 percent over regular walking. Using poles can increase cardio output by up to 25 percent over regular walking, so it’s an excellent fitness program to increase cardio-vascular fitness.
  • The growing trend of Nordic walking can be seen throughout British Columbia and across Canada. Its popularity is attributed to the incredible workout that it provides. “Nordic walking provides excellent strength building and toning results without heavy joint wear and tear,” says Leah Stasiuk, a Vancouver personal trainer and marathon runner. And it’s an activity that is appropriate for any age group, says Stasiuk, whose clients are mostly in their late 20s to 40s. Nordic walking is easily adapted for people from beginner to advanced fitness levels, she adds.
  • Wendy Bumgardner, walking guide for, complements her training program with Nordic walking because it “adds an upper body component to my workout.” The poling action also “helps me with my posture and knees.”
  • Even the “gym rat” can be coaxed outside. Tamara Sorenson, a client of mine, enjoys hiking, yet prefers the “tougher” workout she can get at her local gym. She tried Nordic walking during a session with a personal trainer. “To use the poles is to add the extra punch to make a walk worthwhile. My triceps feel it. My obliques feel it. I love to feel it,” she says.
  • As a new mom, I have found another reason to Nordic walk. Not only did it prove to be an effective, safe, and comfortable alternative to my high-impact routine, but I can also strap my newborn into a front pack and take him with me.

The Future of Nordic Walking
The time is right for Nordic walking to gain momentum and truly boom. Increasing promotion and visibility of this sport continues to spur new interest. Those who embrace the idea are taking this fitness fad and giving it staying power in our community.

Look for a Local Shop that hosts free Nordic walking lessons; training classes are also a good way to get started on your first walk or two.

Nordic Walking Vs. Trekking Poles        

Let’s take a look at Nordic walking, and why this exercise could boom from fitness fad to the next big thing.
What Is Nordic Walking?
Simply put, Nordic walking is an exercise modality that simulates cross country skiing on dry land by adding specially designed poles to your walking workout.
Why Nordic Walking?
By adding specially designed poles to your walk, you engage 90% of your skeletal muscles and decrease joint stress and tension. At the same time, Nordic walking increases lateral mobility in the neck and spine, boosts your heart rate by as much as 13%, and amps caloric burn from 20% to 46%.