How to get the most out of Nordic walking

Nordic walking is an effective full-body workout. However, it’s not as easy as it looks. It involves a complicated sequence of motions, so mistakes creep in all too easily.

Nordic walking is a great form of exercise that combines efficiency with a low risk of injury. It also improves your cardiovascular fitness, strengthens your heart and increases your metabolism, as well as training your muscles and relieving tension.

Helsana+: First collect points, then redeem them

And for Helsana+ users, Nordic walking comes with a double benefit: you are rewarded with health benefits as well as Plus points, which you can turn into cash and make a wish come true, for example by buying a new set of Nordic walking poles.

Nordic walking: The right technique

To obtain the desired results from Nordic walking and prevent health-related problems, using the right technique is crucial. Our brief guide to Nordic walking will help you to learn the ins and outs of the technique.

  • Keep your shoulders relaxed and down.
  • Hold your poles close to your body.
  • Take a step forward with your left foot and move your left arm back. Try to straighten your left arm as much as possible. You can let go of the handle of the left pole. It is secured to your wrist with a strap, so you cannot lose it.
  • At the same time, swing your right arm forward and plant your right pole on the ground just in front of your right foot, i.e. directly under your centre of gravity. When your pole hits the ground, make sure to grab the handle again.
  • Your poles should always be pointing diagonally backwards.
  • You should also engage your torso and hips.
  • Roll through your entire feet and push off with the ball of your big toe.

If you’re leaving visible marks in the ground with your poles, you’re doing it right.

Nordic walking uphill: Walking uphill will put a greater strain on your arms. Make sure you always give yourself a bit of a run-up and take long strides.

Nordic walking downhill: Make sure you always bend your knees slightly when walking downhill. This gives you a lower centre of gravity. Take care not to walk fully upright. You can use your poles to slow yourself down.

Common mistakes made by Nordic walkers

Getting the Nordic walking technique right requires some practice. Try to avoid the following:

  • Don’t hold the poles too far away from your body and don’t plant them too far ahead of you.
  • Don’t use the poles to excessively propel yourself forward or to prop yourself up on.
  • Make sure you’re not taking too long strides.
  • Don’t straighten the knee on your front leg.
  • Use your arms like pendulums. Never flex them as far as 90 degrees.
  • Focus on your posture: don’t walk too upright, but don’t hunch over.

The wrong technique can put undue pressure on your knees, hips and back, and damage your joints. Seek expert advice if you are unsure about anything.

The right Nordic walking equipment

Nordic walking poles: what to look for

Carbon fibre or graphite poles are lighter in weight than aluminium poles. They also vibrate less. To determine which length poles you need, simply multiply your height by 0.66.

  • Stand up straight, and hold your arms at a 90 degree angle. The pole handle should be about 5cm beneath your hand.

Adjustable poles provide greater flexibility, but tend to vibrate more than one-piece poles. You should also make sure your poles have a wrist strap, non-slip grips and moisture-wicking material around the handle. Depending on the surface you will be walking on, you can attach metal spikes or rubber stoppers to your poles.

Please note: ski poles are no substitute for Nordic walking poles.

Nordic walking: shoes and clothing

Wear sturdy shoes with a good profile that fit well and have a flexible sole. Wear breathable, comfortable clothes. If you are prone to blisters on your hands, it might be a good idea to wear cycling gloves.

How many calories does Nordic walking burn?

Nordic walking is a full-body workout, so you burn quite a lot of calories. At a brisk pace of around 6km/h, you can burn an average of 400 calories in one hour of walking.


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