Although the roots of what would become Nordic Walking can be traced back to cross-country ski racers’ inventiveness in the 1930s, and although it is still in its infancy in North America, Finland has set 1997 as the birth of the fitness activity as we know it. According to a report in Helsingin Sanomat, a Finnish newspaper, there was even a birthday celebration yesterday.
“The tenth anniversary of the outdoor activity pioneered in Finland and known as ‘Nordic walking’ was celebrated at the Paloheinä recreational area in the north of Helsinki on Sunday…A group braved the rain to mark ten years of organised Nordic walking at Paloheinä. The Finnish outdoor recreation association Suomen Latu estimates that 720,000 Finns regularly practice Nordic walking. Last year 1.5 million Finns tried it at least once. The group has organised collective Nordic walking events Tuesdays and Sundays for ten years. At first there were about 300 people taking part in the [twice-weekly] events [at Paloheinä]. It has since tapered off to about 50….The first public event was organised by Suomen Latu in 1988. However, it did not take wind at that time.”
I have no idea why it took so long from the first organized event until the first one was actually held, but it would thrill most Nordic Walking leaders in the US if 50 people showed up for a group walk. The concept of “tapering off” is still in the realm of fantasy here.