Category Archives: Asia

International Fitness Week, February 1-7, 2010

Good idea, but no North American and not always Nordic Walking

International Fitness Week is scheduled for February 1-7, 2010, and while it is multi-national, it is hardly global. Promoted by Fitness First, a consortium of 540 health clubs in 17 countries, its goal is stated as, “We want to make the world a fitter place and inspire you to make a change to lead a healthier lifestyle. Anyone can get involved with free gym passes, taster sessions, health checks and advice from the experts.” Its real goal, of course, is drumming up business for those 540 clubs.

The information is different from country to country. The UK page includes a multiple-choice question asking what fitness item people would want from Santa Claus. It lists everything from celebrity fitness DVDs to an at-home smoothie maker, but no Nordic Walking poles. Not surprisingly, the German section includes a search function that comes up with 30 Nordic Walking opportunities. The United States and Canada are not among the countries with Fitness First affiliates (Thailand, the United Arab Emirates and Singapore, as well as the UK and several other Asian and European countries).

I really am happy every time health, fitness and wellness being promoted, and I’m every happier when Nordic Walking is one of the options, even if North America does not seem to be poised to celebrate International Fitness Week,

Nordic Walking in Beijing, but not in the Olympics

Two Chinese media reports refer to Nordic Walking’s appearance in China

The eyes of the world are trained on Beijing right now for the Summer Olympics, but I was also struck by a headline “Nordic Walking Hot in Beijing” that was published on August 15 in a blog about learning Chinese. The original story had appeared in the China Daily nearly two years ago under the subhead, “City Life / Hip & New.” Here’s the story in its entirety.

“Last Saturday, about 300 Beijingers gathered in Yuan Da Du Site Park to
join a great Nordic Walking parade along the bench of the moat. Nordic Walking
uses specially designed poles to engage the upper body during fitness
walking, which originated in Finland as first used when it was a summer
training method by cross-country skiers. It was then developed into a
fitness exercise with specific training equipment.Nordic Walking has been
widely accepted and loved by Beijingers ever since its first appearance in last June, as it involves more muscles than any other traditional fitness activities, and
consumes much more energy. It is even safer than jogging as there are two
poles to support the exerciser’s body. Nordic Walking is one of the best exercises for almost everybody.”

Three hundred seems to be the magic participation number, no matter what day of the week is referenced. Another website reported, “About 300 Beijing residents gathered in Yuan Da Du Site Park on Tuesday night to join a great Nordic Walking parade along the bench of the moat….,” continuing with the exact words of the post above, concluding with “Nordic Walking is one of the best exercises for almost everybody.”

A piece published by the People’s Daily On-Line (also 2006) reported,

“Nordic walking, a less known sport to Chinese, has only come into bud in the
oriental country, with as many as 5,000 fans going into it within three years’
time.

“‘In Europe and North America, about seven million people from 30
countries have been doing the sport,'” International Nordic Walking Association
(INWA) chairman Aki Karihtala told Xinua in the Earth Temple, Beijing on Wednesday.

“‘Nordic walking is safe, easy and aerobic. Scientific researches have confirmed that the sport can help prevent and cure heart diseases, and it also does good to arthroses,'” added Karihtala, who is attending the Nordic Walking training sessions in China.

“Nordic walking, which took its origin from the skiing sports in the remote
and icy Finland, is one of the most rapidly spread aerobic exercises. With two sticks in hands, the sport can involve all limbs in action, and consequently increase the intensity of exercise.

“While climbing mountains, it can reduce the pressure under the arthroses, so it’s especially suitable to the elder. ‘In Europe and North America, people with the sport are mostly above 30 years old. In China, people have a good habit of morning
exercise, I believe Nordic walking can prevail among the elder quickly.’ said
Yao Xinxin, the director of the Nordic Walking Promotion Center, which is
affiliated to the Institute of the Sports Science and Research of the State
Sports General Administration of China.

“The sport is now only promoting in Beijing. We have sent qualifier trainers to parks around Beijing regularly to teach those interested people for free. “And if we succeed in Beijing, we will bring the sport to more cities like Shanghai and Xi’an.”

The China Times story was accompanied by a canned photo of three very Nordic-looking walkers. Does anyone in Beijing actually Nordic Walk? I have no idea, but host groups of 300 can mushroom quickly in a country like China, and of course, many poles of various levels of quality are now manufactured there. Stay tuned.

Korea Discovers Nordic Walking

Korea Health & Nordic Walking Association leads the way, promotes the sport

“Anyone for Nordic Walking?” in the English online edition of the Korea Times calls our favorite sport/fitness activity “a more sophisticated method of walking” that is a “trend” in Scandinavia and Japan. The technique description is charmingly translated as follows:

“Straighten up your body. Make your feet parallel as well as the pole to
form the number 11 shape. Push and pull the grip using the strap when moving forward. Do not push it too hard but try to straighten your arms when you pull them backwards. There you can feel the strained muscle. Do not bend your arms when pulling back and breathe with your abs. Try to land from the foot heel when
walking and let the step be around 75 to 80 centimeters. Once you get used to the walking, the step can widen to one meter. Try to walk for at least 40-45 minutes, 2-3 times a week. Walking more than 6 kilometers per session is the most effective.
/ Courtesy of Nordic Walking Association”

I have written tens of thousands (make that hundreds of thousands) of words about Nordic Walking, but I have never thought of the push/pull analogy, though perhaps some instructors or creative technical minds have done so.

The piece does also segue to the Department of Misinformation by explaining, “Unlike ordinary pole walking that originated in the United States that places the poles ahead of the body to help reduce the pain of moving, Nordic walking requires one to push the poles backward, as if walking on a ski slope.”

Reporter Bae J-sook quotes Hong Ki-il, spokesman for the Korea Health & Nordic Walking Association, who explained the full-body workout, the health benefits, the weight loss and the caloric-burn and cardio bonus that are familiar to the Euro-American Nordic Walking community. Hong also alerts new Nordic Walkers that “Just doing it for 15-20 minutes, you will feel some pain in the arm muscles that you were never aware of before. But with regular exercise, you will be able to train your body wholly. Also you can adapt the moves when hiking or even inline skating.”

The article, illustrated with a sequence of technique photographs taken in a stadium (the Olympic stadium perhaps?), indicates that “in Korea, the exercise was introduced relatively recently, but there are various clubs and classes that teach the basic posture. Poles are sold at several online stores.” China, where so many poles of varying degrees of quality are now manufactured, is right next door, but the KNWA is affiliated with Exel. That’s about all I could glean from the website, which is naturally in Korean. I pulled the image (above right) from a page linked from the website and hope that it is for promotional purposes and not copyrighted.

Nordic Walking in Thailand

I wonder whether there is a magnetic attraction between Scandinavian people and Sandinavian things — or whether it is just seredipitous that an expat Swede named Henry Mukka living in Thailand has recently taken up Nordic Walking. He introduced his significant other, Poo, to it as well. He sent me some photos to post, which delights me, because we enjoyed a two-week sojourn in Thailand several years ago. The convergence of a wonderful activity with wonderful people is a happy one indeed. Tackar så mycket, Henry.

From these images, it is apparent that Henry and Poo are not the only Nordic Walkers in the country — not that there’s a crowd yet. Once they become more knowledgeable themselves, Henry wrote, he and Poo would “like to start somthing in Thailand about Nordic Walking soon.” I hope he’ll me know when he does. — or perhaps post a comment on this blog to alert all of us at the same time.

Meanwhile, he has started a blog that I plan to visit often to see how Nordic Walking is adapting to a completely different culture halfway around the world.

Nordic Walking in Japan

United Press International recently released a widely published little news article reporting that, “Japan’s newest fitness craze, Nordic walking, has onlookers puzzled as to why people are walking with ski poles when there is no snow. Nordic walking just might be the exercise to solve the countries newest fear of metabolic syndrome, which is excess fat around the mid-section that may cause diseases, the Japan Times reported. ” A craze in Japan is said to be crazy indeed, with millions of focused, dedicated people taking up whatever it might be. Will there now be a world-wide shortage of Nordic Walking poles? Stay tuned.