What your walk may be missing

What your walk may be missing

Walking is a great way to get exercise, enjoy nature and relieve stress. But did you know there’s an easy way to make it even better and work out your upper body, too?

It’s called Nordic walking. Nordic walking uses poles in a similar way as cross-country skiing. It’s a whole-body exercise that nearly anyone can do and enjoy all year round and at any level of intensity.

“Because Nordic walking combines simple walking with core and upper body conditioning, it can benefit your health in many ways,” says Dr. Amy Ford, who specializes in sports medicine at Aurora Medical Center in Summit, Wis. “You burn significantly more calories when walking with poles – 20% or even more. It helps to relieve neck and shoulder tension, improve you posture, strengthen your back and tone your core muscles and upper arms.”

Research also shows Nordic walking has a positive impact on mental health, along with physical health. In a recently published study, patients with coronary artery disease did a 12-week Nordic walking program, high-intensity interval training or moderate-to-vigorous intensity continuous training. Scientists reported that all three exercise groups showed similar positive prolonged effects on depression, quality of life and functional capacity (measured with a 6-minute walk test). The results showed Nordic walking was superior for increasing functional capacity.

Nordic walking is common in Europe and is now catching on in the U.S. It works well for a wide range of people – from those who want to begin or up their exercise regimen, to athletes for cross-training. It can be especially ideal for those rehabbing from an injury or have balance issues, as the poles help to stabilize and support the body. Additionally, Nordic walking can be a great social activity through walking clubs which are sometimes offered at local parks and recreation departments.

Dr. Ford offers some tips for Nordic walking success:

  • Wear comfortable clothes that let you swing your arms wide.
  • Stretch and warm up before your walk, and cool down afterwards.
  • Stay hydrated and drink water before and during your walk, especially if you go for more than an hour.
  • Before beginning any exercise program, always talk with your doctor to see if it’s right for you.

Now’s a perfect time to make an appointment with a doctor to help you be on a healthy path. Find a provider that’s right for you in Illinois or Wisconsin.

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  1. Wondering if light hand weights could also work? 2-3 lbs. I’m thinking.

  2. Hand weights put stress on shoulder and elbow joints and can actually start to cause you to slump forward as you walk. If you add weight–a weighted vest is better–it keeps the added weight at the center of your body. However, the risks outweigh the benefits when adding weights to any cardio exercise. I think the poles are better. Keep the weights for toning and strength training. I’ve been a fitness instructor and trainer for many years.

About the Author

Mary Arens
Mary Arens

Mary Arens, health enews contributor, is a senior content specialist at Advocate Aurora Health in Milwaukee. She has 20+ years of experience in communications plus a degree in microbiology. Outside of work, Mary makes healthy happen with hiking, yoga, gardening and walks with her dog, Chester.