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5 Reasons to Try Nordic Walking for Seniors

A senior couple walks along a path using poles.

Walking is one of the best workouts you can do for your health, but this low-impact exercise can aggravate back, hip, and knee pain in seniors. An exercise called Nordic walking is a solution that eliminates the pain while still getting exercise in.

As an export from — you guessed it — Scandinavia, walking with poles isn’t a new concept. What is new is using the specially designed Nordic walking poles that were first unveiled in 1997.

These poles are shorter than regular ski poles and come with a hand strap, allowing for a more relaxed grip. They also come equipped with special rubber booties that make the poles durable for any terrain, from sidewalks to hiking trails.

If you pay attention, you’ll notice more and more people using poles as they stroll through the park or down the street. Here are five reasons to give Nordic walking a try yourself.

1. Nordic Walking Takes the Pressure off of Joints

Regular walking puts all of the pressure on the lower half of the body, which can make it tough on seniors with back, knee, or hip issues. The use of poles, however, takes some of the pressure off of those joints, allowing you to walk faster and further. 

This is how Martica Heaner, an exercise physiologist and certified Nordic walking instructor, explains it in an article for the Arthritis Foundation: “For people with joint injuries in their lower bodies or lower back, trekking poles can help absorb some of the landing impact with each step, particularly when going downhill.”

2. Nordic Walking Is an All-Body Workout

When you’re walking, you’re only using muscles in the lower half of your body. However, when you’re Nordic walking, you’re using 90% of your muscles, according to the American Nordic Walking Association.

That translates into an all-body workout that burns more calories while also keeping you light on your feet and feeling good.

3. All You Need Are Nordic Walking Poles

Nordic walking poles are specially designed for walking and generally range from about $20 to $200. Made of either aluminum or carbon fiber, the poles come in one-piece and adjustable models, which are collapsible and easy to stash in a backpack or suitcase. 

A few things to consider: Carbon fiber poles are generally more expensive but they are also lighter and more flexible, making them more durable. If you choose a one-piece model, you’ll have to ensure you get the right length for your height. 

4. Nordic Walking Is Easy to Learn

Nordic walking is just like regular walking, except with special poles and the following slight modifications:

  • Lean slightly forward, keeping shoulders down and relaxed.
  • Begin each step with the heel touching the ground and rolling forward to the ball of the foot.
  • Take strides that are longer than usual.
  • Keep a light grip on your poles to reduce tension in the upper body.

Interested in seeing Nordic walking in action? This two-and-a-half minute video, produced by the AARP, illustrates the proper technique. 

5. Nordic Walking Improves Balance

It’s no surprise that walking with poles helps you keep your balance. That’s exactly what poles — whether used for skiing or walking — are designed to do. What may be surprising is that Nordic walking has been shown to improve balance even after you put your poles down and resume everyday life activities. 

This 2020 study concluded that Nordic walking improved balance in a cohort of women — and hypothesized that improved balance would lead to improved quality of life: “ We can expect that those participating in [Nordic walking]  training will be at a lower risk of falling. This will reduce the fear of independent movement and risk of losing independence in everyday life.”

Redefining Wellness at Crestwood Manor

Wellness is a way of life at Crestwood Manor, thanks to our award-winning LivWell program and its mission “to provide the opportunity to engage in experiences that support a high quality of life, personal choice, lifelong development, and an optimal sense of well-being.” From the heated indoor pool and fully equipped fitness center to the woodworking shop and art center, there are always ways to engage, learn, and create at Crestwood Manor. Use this quick form to schedule a visit to our Whiting, New Jersey, campus and see for yourself what life is like at our active senior living community.

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