Nordic walking: How to choose your walking poles?
Nordic walking is an outdoor sport that involves walking at a steady pace with the help of poles, which must be integrated into the movement with a certain degree of coordination.
It is a complete and effective discipline, excellent for health and, above all, for physical fitness, as it allows 90% of the muscles to be worked and is one of the least traumatic sports for the joints. In addition to the legs and buttocks, it also trains the upper body.
It is important to learn the correct execution of the movement, which can be learned in introductory courses, in order to enjoy all its benefits.
This discipline was born several decades ago in Europe, when alpine and cross-country skiers began to take advantage of the summer to continue training with a movement similar to that of their main sport. True Nordic walking, however, was born in the late 1990s, when Marko Kantaneva, a Finnish sports teacher, published the correct method for performing it. Since 2009, the sport has been regulated by the French Athletics Federation.
By alternating dynamic and slow phases, Nordic Walking allows you to work on and improve your cardiac capacity. Like all endurance sports, it is excellent for health and especially for weight loss, and at the same time involves a lot of muscle work, so you can also achieve great toning. In addition to enjoying the benefits of an outdoor activity, Nordic walking helps to prevent certain diseases and stay healthy.
It has positive effects on hypercholesterolemia, diabetes, blood pressure, quality of life in asthmatics, resting heart rate, bone strengthening, osteoporosis prevention and joint care.
3. Characteristics of the poles
The main protagonists of Nordic walking are the poles; they provide forward momentum and extend the natural walking movement by working the muscles of the shoulders, arms and abdominals as well as the glutes and thighs. They also ensure correct posture during movement. The arms and upper body are used to maintain balance while walking, which has a great effect on the joints, especially when walking on steep and uneven trails. They are different from trekking poles, whose function is to help you find your balance when going uphill and prevent you from slipping when going downhill.
Nordic Walking poles usually have a glove-type grip that allows the hand to open completely during propulsion: the main movement of Nordic walking, which must be smooth and regular. The mono-stretch model is lightweight and does not shorten during practice; it absorbs vibrations and allows the joints to be guided. The tip of the poles provides good ground grip for forward momentum, while detachable tips ensure grip on asphalt. A decisive factor in the choice of the baton is the percentage of carbon present (they are usually made of aluminium or a mixture of glass fibre and carbon). The higher the percentage, the more the impact of vibrations on joints and arms will be limited, and the lighter and more dynamic the pole will be. The choice of model depends on the level of the user:
- Intensive Nordic-walker: poles with a high proportion of carbon, taking into account that poles made entirely of this material are excessively stiff.
- Regular Nordic-walker: poles made of at least 50% carbon to increase comfort thanks to the softness they offer.
- BeginnerNordic-walker: to gradually discover the practice, choose shock-resistant and affordable aluminium poles.
The choice depends on the season and temperature, but in general the same as for brisk walking or running is recommended. It is important, as it is an aerobic sport that involves a lot of sweating, to wear technical clothing.
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