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Nordic walking for post-menopausal weight loss and fitness

Nordic walking, which uses specially designed walking poles, is a fantastic, low-impact way to lose weight and keep fit and is particularly appropriate for people who find strenuous exercise methods difficult or for whom such methods are not advisable. Read on to find out results of research on how it can benefit you and learn  what you need to start Nordic walking.

Nordic walking weight loss fitness older women

Photo by Annelis (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL ], via Wikimedia Commons

Nordic walking is gentle enough for doctors to consider it suitable and beneficial for the elderly, for pregnant women and for patients in rehabilitation after a heart attack and patients with COPD. People with Parkinson’s disease experienced an improvement in disability symptoms after training in 70-minute sessions three times a week for six months. Researchers who looked at its use by women with fibromyalgia found that unlike some more demanding forms of exercise, it did not cause increased flare-ups of the disease. If you want to profit from the beneficial effects of exercise in maintaining a higher metabolic rate after the menopause (see here for more information), this activity is worth considering.

Nordic walking preferred over normal walking by obese middle-aged women

A research team at the University of Trento in Italy compared a program of normal walking with a program of Nordic walking in obese middle-aged women. Both groups were asked to attend three training sessions a week for twelve weeks. Over the whole three months of the program, women in the Nordic walking group had a better attendance rate at the training sessions. This suggests that they found this way of exercising more satisfying that simply walking.

A better cardiovascular workout

When the scientists looked more closely at the physiology and psychology of what was happening they found two interesting facts. Firstly, the women’s perception of the amount of effort needed to do the exercise was the same in both groups. However, the Nordic walkers achieved higher heart rates and deeper breathing than the ordinary walkers. This means that Nordic walking provided a better cardiovascular workout (and thus also better fat-burning activity) than normal walking. [Ref: Efficacy of Nordic walking in obesity management by H. Figard-Fabre and colleagues, published in International Journal of Sports Medicine, June 2011 Jun, vol. 32 pages 407-14.]

Equipment for Nordic walking

1. Walking poles

The most important equipment is of course the walking poles. These are not the same as ordinary trekking poles. They have a special hand-strap and can be specific to left and right hand. The lighter the pole, the better. Fixed-length poles are lighter than adjustable poles, as well as being stronger and more secure. A higher carbon content makes for a stronger and lighter pole. Pole lengths are stated in centimeters. The length should be approximately 70% of your height in centimeters. For example, someone who is 5′ 4″ or 5′ 5″ tall will usually need poles that are 115 cm long. People who have very short strides or who walk more slowly do better with a pole one size smaller, i.e. 110 cm in this case. Genuine Norwegian poles should come in all sizes. These ones available in the US offer various lengths: Real Nordic Walking Poles from Lillehammer, Norway. (In the UK, Ultrasport has poles available in a number of fixed lengths).

 2. Footwear

Specific footwear is not essential. However, walking shoes lined with Gore-tex   will protect you fully from the misery of wet feet. These are praised by users for being extremely comfortable as well as totally waterproof: Merrell Women’s Moab Mid Gore-Tex Hiking Shoe available in the US and these same Moab boots are also available in the UK.

3. Other clothing

Wear loose, comfortable clothing. Layers help you keep warmer by trapping air between each layer, but also make it easy to adjust clothing to match changes in temperature. For the best wet weather protection, consider a specialist jacket, ideally one for which a zipped-in thermal inner is available either as part of the product or separately.

Learning Nordic Walking

Ideally, if you can attend a class or find a private trainer, this will give you the best way of mastering the technique. Learning in a group will also give you the possibility of meeting walking partners. However, if this is not possible where you live, videos can be useful to see how it’s done, and books to provide helpful tips and suggest suitable training programs.

Nordic Walking for Total Fitness by Suzanne Nottingham and Alexandra Jurasin is a lavishly illustrated volume that takes you from first principles to a collection of programs that will show you how to use Nordic walking to achieve various fitness goals. Click on the title to buy this book with free delivery worldwide.

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