Nordic Walking – Add Years to your Life!

Walking for Health All Year Around

As we age, there are many excuses we can make regarding why we don’t exercise. We can feel like we’re too old, or out of shape, to get back into a dedicated fitness regimen. Certain health issues may have caused a loss of mobility. We can also convince ourselves that it is too intimidating, time-consuming, and expensive to do.

However, there are many forms of physical activity (i.e., walking, swimming, light aerobics, and weightlifting) that make getting fit a fun, interactive, and mentally stimulating experience, no matter the season.

If we could only bottle and sell it, fitness activities would be the best-selling pharmaceutical of all time.

Doctors say that if they could prescribe the benefits of moderate physical activity in the form of a pill, it would change the healthcare landscape.  The far-reaching effects of physical activity work for almost every system in the body, from the brain to the heart.  There is a wealth of evidence to show that moderate activity, even if started much later in life, is good for you… and can improve the quality of life as we age.

CARP has a long history of advocating on behalf of older Canadians and seeking to improve their quality of life through campaigns aimed at promoting government policy changes. Our CARP members acknowledge their personal responsibility for preventative healthcare, and many want to play an active part in their own health and in aging as well as possible.

Innumerable scientific studies show the benefit of activity, for physical, mental, emotional and brain health.  Those same studies show that it’s never too late to benefit from the rewards of physical activity.

Why Walking? Walking is the easiest and most accessible form of physical activity.

Walking improves fitness, cardiac health, alleviates depression and fatigue. Walking improves mood, creates less stress on joints and reduces pain, can prevent weight gain, reduces risk for cancer and chronic disease, improves endurance, circulation, and posture, and the list goes on… Plus it’s social . You can share your activity easily with others.   And if you progress to something like Nordic Pole Walking, there are added benefits with engaging the upper body and increasing number of calories burned, cardio improved and strengthens 95% of the body’s large muscles.

CARP encourages our 330,000 members across Canada to participate in walking activities, according to their own ability, with the goal of making it a habit that Zoomers will not want to break. From a short walk out of one’s residence to a long hike among beautiful scenery. Every effort will have a positive effect.  When walking in winter conditions, it’s important to consider your footwear. Invest in footwear that has a non-slip tread sole made of natural rubber.  Ice grippers on footwear can help you walk on hard packed snow and ice but they can become very slippery and must be removed before walking on smooth surfaces such as stone, tile or ceramic.

Nordic Walking

One of the best ways for older Canadians to keep fit is walking and walking with genuine Nordic style walking poles is an even better way to walk.  Nordic Walking was originally a summer training regime for cross-country skiers. It’s based on using specially designed Nordic Walking poles in a way that harnesses the power of the upper body to propel you forward as you walk. It is now a recognised way to turn a walk into whole-body exercise. It can be enjoyed at many levels, from Nordic Walking for health to athletic Nordic running.  More than 10 million people globally enjoy this outdoor activity all year round with an overall goal of achieving general physical and mental well-being.

What are the benefits of Nordic Walking?

Like other forms of moderate activity, regular Nordic Walking can lower your risk of chronic illnesses, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, asthma, stroke, and some cancers. Additionally, it can also be used as part of an exercise programme to assist with weight loss.

Nordic Walking combines the simplicity and accessibility of Nordic Walking with simultaneous core and upper body conditioning like cross country skiing.  The result is a full body workout, which means that, you:

  • release tension in the neck and shoulders
  • improve your posture and gait
  • strengthen your back and abdominal muscles
  • reduce the impact on the joints
  • burn up to 46% more calories compared to Nordic Walking without poles
  • And because Nordic Walking doesn’t feel like hard work, you’ll be happy to walk further and for longer

Nordic Walking Poles: Burn More Calories, Feel Less Exertion

Nordic Walking with proper Nordic Walking Poles allows you to burn more calories while not feeling an increase in exertion. You can enjoy the benefits of moderate-intensity exercise without the need to speed up.

Nordic Walking poles works your upper body while regular walking does not. This results in burning about 20 percent more calories for the same distance or time spent Nordic Walking. The poles add stability on rocky or uneven trails as well as for walkers who may lack confidence or have balance issues in any terrain.

Nordic Walking Poles Burn More Calories Than Regular Nordic Walking

Using Nordic Walking poles results in burning more calories and giving your heart and lungs more of a workout than regular walking at the same speed without Nordic Walking poles. The difference is about one additional calorie per minute.

A 2018 study compared walkers who used poles with four different techniques. Each of the techniques resulted in using more oxygen and raising the heart rate. Nordic Walking had the most boost, with heart rate raised an average of 23 beats per minute compared with regular Nordic Walking. Oxygen use was raised 37 percent and the breathing rate was significantly increased.

One difficulty with Nordic Walking is that it takes practice to learn the technique and get the full benefit. This study was encouraging in that using the poles is less efficient ways still had significant benefits compared to walking without poles.

Boost Your Workout Without Feeling More Exertion

Another benefit of using Nordic Walking poles is that studies show you are exerting more energy without feeling you are doing so. You can walk for your usual length of time or distance at your preferred speed while getting a better workout. This can help you boost your usual walking from light intensity to moderate intensity, which builds cardiovascular fitness and brings more benefits in reducing health risks. Whether you just don’t want to walk faster or you are unable to do so comfortably, this is a significant benefit.

Nordic Walking poles are appropriate for all ages, including seniors. A review of studies found the benefits for seniors include improving aerobic capacity, balance, flexibility, muscle strength, and quality of life.

Nordic Walking is based on cross-country skiing technique and was first used as a summer training method for people in that sport.

Appropriate Equipment Required

Correct Nordic Walking technique and effective training are best achieved by poles designed especially for Nordic Walking based on the cross-country ski poles used originally in a summer training regime for cross-country skiers.

The poles have an attached thumb-hole cradle glove strap that allows you to release the pole at the end of the backstroke and have it snap back into your hand. Ordinary Hiking or Trekking poles may have a strap but do not have this glove with thumbhole or cradle. Nordic Walking poles are made to be light and durable. The grip of the pole has a thumb hole strap or cradle and is ergonomically designed. Poles have a spike tip for softer trails and a rubber asphalt paw to use on sidewalks and paved paths. Using Nordic Walking poles can help you get a better workout at the same Nordic Walking speed. You will get the most benefits if you learn the correct technique. However, even if you don’t quite get it right you will still be adding a boost to your regular walks.

Your Walking Program

We suggest a walking Program, with or without poles, you can follow to for your walking fitness program.

Fitness’ is defined as “Physical and mental well-being” and describes the capability to be active in everyday life and alleviate stress.

Fitness encompasses all types of people, from world-class athletes to people who just want to improve their well-being. Fitness is a result of health, physical strength, and mental balance. We suggest two training programs: (A) to increase your endurance capability and (B) to increase your walking speed.

Before you start any program consult your health practitioner ensure you are healthy enough for regular fitness training.

Determine your Personal and Optimal Walking Tempo

Your pulse is an individual parameter influenced by age, emotions, fitness level, gender, health disorders, medication, etc. There are scientifically proven definitions to determine your optimal individual training pulse according to your goals:

  • Recreation Walking
  • Fat Burning Walking
  • Performance-, Race Walking

You determine your individual walking goals by the percentage of heartbeats of your maximum heartbeat frequency (HFmax).

To determine your maximum heartbeat frequency without being tested on a treadmill, use the definition used in Sports Medicine all around the world.

Also note, if you are taking heart medication, consult your health professional as your targets will be different and likely lower.

(We chose age ‘60’ for all examples)

Example:   220 minus 60 = 160 HFmax (men)

226 minus 60 = 166 HFmax (women)

You can choose one of two Walking Pulse Ranges defined:

  • Renewal, Beginners program: 55% – 65% of HRmax


  • Fitness/Fat Burning:                          65% – 75% of HRmax

Walking below 55% of HRmax is just like walking the dog. It is a good for you, healthy activity but you have no training effect on your cardio system when you do it for less than an hour.

What is the Fat burning Zone

To burn most of your body fat, the best walking pace is at plus or minus 120 bts/min. as a rule of thumb. (Once again, talk with your health provider if you are on heart medication or have other health issues.)

The good news: You often hear that body fat burning begins after20 minutes of walking and that’s correct when you are a beginner.

When you walk regularly per week your metabolism learns step-by-step to start fat burning earlier. After2 – 3 months of Nordic Pole Walking your muscles have “learned” to burn fat right from the first minutes.

  • Renewal, beginning Training Program for Beginners

Follow this program when it has been a while since your last fitness training, or you are newcomer.

Target Heart Rate (only for people not taking blood pressure medication, otherwise, speak with your medical advisor)

Men:              (220 minus your age) x 0.55 – 0.65

Women:        (226 minus your age) x 0.55 – 0.65

Your Training Plan for first eight Weeks:

  1. Week: 20 minutes
  2. Week: 30 minutes
  3. Week: 35 minutes
  4. Week: 40 minutes
  5. Week: 45 minutes

6 to 8th. Week:  50-60 minutes

Fitness/Fat Burning program

Follow this program if you are in relatively good shape or after you have completed the Renewal, Beginners Training Program for Beginners program above.

Target Heart Rate (only for people not taking blood pressure medication)

65% – 75% of HRmax

Men:             (220 – age) x 0.65 – 0.75

Women:       (226 – age) x 0.65 – 0.75

Example, age 60:

Men:             (220 – 60) = 160 x 0.75 = 120 beats/min

Women:      (226 – 60) =  166 x 0.75 = 124 beats/min


Nordic Walk 45 – 60 minutes, 5- or 6-days peer week.

Always take at least one day off per week to allow your muscles to recover. Try not to leave more than 48 hours between you walks.

What about warm-up and cool-down?

A slow easy walk for the first 5 minutes is sufficient “warm-up” for a walking program unless you have muscle issues that your health professional has told you need some easy stretching before you begin your walk.

Following your walk, try some of these stretching, cool-down methods.

“Parallel Squats”

Sit down on an invisible Chair

Using your poles for balance, and holding your back straight   for good posture, “sit down” on an invisible chair. Move downward and upward slowly.

Complete 10 repetitions.

 Exercise 2.  “Stride Squats”

 Kneel down – Rise up.

Keep Upper body upright.

Using your poles for balance, stand up straight in a comfortable stride position– right leg in front. Bend down with the left leg as deep as you can and raise up. Keep your upper body erect.

After 10 repetitions switch, putting the left leg in front and duplicate the exercise.

Complete 10 repetitions for each leg

Exercise 3.  “Isometric Arm & Shoulder Strengthening”

Stand upright and hold the poles outward horizontally and even with the height of your shoulders (with your poles parallel to the ground). While keeping your grip secure, pull your right hand to the right and your left hand to the left. Hold for 30 seconds.  Then, holding the grip, push both hands towards the middle of the poles without slipping your hands off the poles. Push for 30 seconds.

You will feel your arm and shoulder muscles contracting.

Complete 2 – 5 repetitions each.

Exercise 4.    “Isometric Triceps Strengthening”

Stand straight and tall. Hold your poles vertically behind your back.  Grip the bottom end of the poles with your right hand and the top end of the poles with your left hand.  Pull left hand downward and right hand upward. Hold this position for 10 to 30 seconds.  Then push both hands to the middle of the poles without slipping your hands off the poles. Hold for 10 to 30 seconds. Keep breathing.

You will feel a good contraction in your triceps.

Each arm 2 to 5 repetitions.

 Exercise 5.  “Strengthening your Back Muscles & Gluteus”

Use your poles for balance while leaning your upper body forward; put your body weight on the right leg. Lift your left leg backward and stretch as far and straight as possible. Hold this position for 10 to 30 seconds.  Then, switch leg to have your body weight on your left leg while stretching your right leg as described above.

You will feel the contraction in your back muscles and gluteus.

Complete 5 repetitions for each leg.