Category Archives: Dept of Misinformation

Department of Misinformation VII

From a piece called “Walking Exercises Will Get You In Shape” on a website whose main purpose is cross-border sales of prescription medications comes this misinformation about Nordic Walking poles: “Heard about Nordic walking and walking poles? It’s a form of walking that has it’s origin from Scandinavia, but is spreading nimbly around the world. You use walking poles during your walks (much like skiing poles, but with rubber ends to make it bounce off the ground better), and it increases the calorie burning with about 20%.”

“…rubber ends to make it [the pole] bounce off the ground better.” Poor syntax could make a careful reader think that there are “rubber ends” on both ends of each pole, but the real misinformation is writer Beatrise Stephenson’s explanation of what those “rubber ends” are supposed to do. But then again, people weeking to save money on their prescriptions probably don’t read the copy below the images of pill bottles and prices the online seller charges for them.

Department of Misinformation VI

A short piece on Nordic Walking in general and Exel TravelFit poles in particular that ran in the Kansas City Star on Saturday, August 25, began: “Nordic walking — basically fast walking aided by staffs resembling ski poles — has become quite the rage worldwide. The poles engage the upper body during fitness walking (increasing heart rate and calorie burning), help stabilize the user on hilly or rocky terrain and reduce shock on asphalt surfaces.”

The phrase between the dashes in the opening sentence is a real ouch — especially the “aided by staffs resembling ski poles” part. I cannot post the picture accompanying the piece, because it might be copyrighted. It is a good illustration of proper technique, but the offending phrase implies that by walking fast with “staffs” as a walking “aid,” a person will magically become a Nordic Walker. The “engaging the upper body during fitness walking” gives a hint of how it’s done, but a hint is all.

I don’t point these errors out to show how smart I am, but rather to indicate that along with the little information the general public has about Nordic Walking is a hefty portion of misinformation, or at least misleading information.

Department of Misinformation V

A segment filmed in South Florida on “Nordic pole walking” and broadcast on the “Healthcast” portion of the news on WHDH, Boston’s Channel 7, implies that not only special poles but also particular shoes are required. The implication is that rocker-sole Chung Shi shoes are needed. Some people like the core-muscle boost that this type of shoe is designed to provide. Others don’t. You can see the video and/or read the intro on-line and judge for yourself.

I do applaud the inclusion of a woman recuperating from hip-replacement surgery who found that she could get in her cardio exercise by Nordic Walking. From her accent, she comes from the WHDH viewing area.

Department of Misinformation IV

I suppose some exposure for Nordic Walking is better than no exposure for Nordic Walking, but Channel 5, the NBC affiliate in Dallas, also showed some erroneous technique that was kindly sent to me by Ernie Lambert, a visitor to this blog, who wrote:

You might be interested in viewing this video, which aired on the local
news. Almost all of the technique shown or discussed was incorrect.
http://video.nbc5i.com/player/?id=139360

I did visit the station’s site, looked at the footage half-a-dozen times, read
the comments that preceded mine and then posted the following on
comment to back Ernie up and also try to answer a few questions:

I have written a book about Nordic Walking that will be out in early 2008 and
I have a blog at
http://nordic-walking-usa.blogspot.com. Ernie Lambert is right about whatwas wrong or misleading with the report. The poles should indeed be planted on a plane between the leading and back foot. One of the Nordic Walkers talks about gripping and releasing the poles, but does not appear to release them. Only one brand of poles that do not have a wrist strap are used with releasing the grip during the backswing.

It doesn’t matter whether one calls the activity Nordic Walking, pole walking, Skiwalking, Exerstriding or anything else. What IS important is engaging the upper body (arms, shoulders, back, pecs) to propel yourself through each step. That is what provides a full-body workout, provides an aerobic bonus, relieves joint pressure and also increases the caloric burn.

I tried to identify the shoes but couldn’t in that short a time. The most important thing about footwear is that it fits right. Several companies make specific Nordic Walking shoes. Walking shoes and trail running shoes (not track running or regular runners designed for pavement) are suitable for Nordic Walking. You want to be able to roll the foot heel to toe through each step. Chains like Foot Solutions and Runners World carry lots of sports footwear, as do local, independent running stores.

Try to find a basic intro course to get yourself started correctly. An instructor
can introduce you to proper technique and, hopefully, steer you away from any
errors. Good luck — and have fun.

Still More from the Department of Misinformation

It’s been more than a month since I noticed a couple of inaccurate articles about Nordic Walking (see my April 19 and 20 posts) or spotted CNN’s misinforming report (see May 15 post). I don’t mean to be persnickety for its own sake, but I see these erroneous reports as misleading new Nordic Walkers, who then put misiniformation into action.

My most recent find was an introductory article to Nordic Walking on northjersey.com that included the following paragraph: “Walk naturally with opposite arm and leg forward. Drag and plant the poles as you walk. Don’t think about it too much or you’ll mess up.” The report by Jessica Peralta was posted originally on an Orange County, CA, site called SQUEEZEOC, was picked up all the way across the country in northern New Jersey. It isn’t correct on either coast.
The report did not indicate that some instructors tell newbies to drag their poles only for a few steps in the beginning learning to actually use the poles. Nowhere did the article mention where the poles are to be planted in relation to the feet. Nowhere did it discuss the backswing, the open hand or even pole length, the most basic of basic info. Peralta did comment, “The most difficult part of the exercise is getting the straps on — they strap over your hands in a specific way.”

This is yet another example of why it’s good to take a class or workshop, preferably from a certified Nordid Walking instructor but at the very least from a fitness professional who has also been trained by a pole company to teach the basics of Nordic Walking.

CNN "Discovers" Nordic Walking


  • Millions of people who knew nothing about Nordic Walking will at least aware of the concept, thanks to a CNN snippet on our favorite fitness activity. Too bad the news network didn’t really get it right. I’m glad they covered Nordic Walking, but I wish that the report were actually more accurate. In a story called “To Pick Up Your Pace, Pick Up a Pole,” CNN and its medical correspondent Judy Fortin spouted a host of inaccuracies, half-truths and misleading comments — and the camera focused on some poor excuses for Nordic Walking technique. The mistakes in the CNN/cnn.com coverage of Nordic Walking include:
  • For openers, the title is misleading. Picking up “a pole” isn’t anything like Nordic Walking. “To Pick Up Your Pace, Pick Up a Pair of Poles” would have been alliterative too — and also accurate.
  • The report says that walking with poles burns 400 calories an hour compared with 350 without poles. The numbers usually given are that Nordic Walking, using proper technique, burns approximately 40 percent more calories than walking at a comparable speed without poles. The American Nordic Walking Association gives this as 400 calories per hour with poles, compared with 280 calories per hour without poles.
  • The story claims, “The technique involves leaning slightly forward, taking long strides and oving heel to toe while keeping a relaxed grip on the poles.” All I can say is, “not exactly” because the important arm/poling motion is not mentioned.
  • The click-to video clip from the cnn.com web page shows a pretty pathetic class, including one woman who is clearly dragging her poles behind her on the ground, one who straight-arms her pole during the forward motion and also opens her hands during the pole plant, and one who keeps planting her poles in front of her. Any viewers paying attention will be misled by the little video. Committed Nordic Walkers and especially instructors will cringe.
  • Fortin asserts that Nordic Walking was invented in Finland “over a hundred years ago.” Perhaps she’s on some time travel itinerary that has eluded the rest of us, because it was introduced in Finland in 1997. But hey, what’s 90 years or more between accuracy and its absence?
  • The opening page for the web story on used the word “skiiers.” It’s skiers — one I — which indicates to me that no one is proofreading what cnn.com puts on-line.

Still, despite such journalistic sloppiness, I am happy that CNN and cnn.com have brought attention to Nordic Walking. But then, in a wider context, if they can screw up so much in one little report on a relatively straightforward topic, I wonder whether they make similar mistakes with news reports that are really more crucial to the world.

More Notes from the Dept of Misinformation

There seems to be a wave of weird misinformation on Nordic Walking being launched into cyberspace these days. I found, on an endurance bicyclist’s site, the following: “Getting ready to leave work to go to another training for Nordic Walking. If you have been to Europe you will see a lot of Germans walking with Leaky sticks, they call it Nordic Walking, done incorrectly like most people you look like an idiot, done correctly its like dry land xc skiing your heart rate shoots up because your using all the muscles of the body.”

Never mind the run-on sentence that reads like a wannabe section of Molly Bloom’s non-stop soliloquy in Ulysses that would give James Joyce apoplexy. I was really struck by the reference to “Leaky sticks.” Are these perhaps related to leaky faucets? Leaky pipes? In fact, while Americans tend to pronounced LEKI as “lee-key,” Germans themselves say “lay-key” — emphasis on the first syllable in both languages.

Notes from the Dept. of Misinisformation

According to a report in the Turkish Daily News, “Nordic walking became widely popular first in Finland and spread around the world rapidly. The interest shown was tremendous! In Germany alone, a million people prefer this form of exercise. However, we cannot say the same for Turkey. Nevertheless, it is possible to see a few people walking with modified ski poles here and there especially in coastal areas. The number of Nordic walkers is estimated to have increased in Turkey as well.”

MY COMMENT: Those Nordic Walkers along the coast at are probably visiting Germans. And if so, they aren’t using “modified ski poles,” even though the brands are familiar to anyone who knows about ski eqipment.

“All you need to exercise is a pair of ski poles, but in reality any stick will do. Nordic walking is a total body workout. Initially you should start without poles. However, make sure to remember that if you are walking with a pair of poles, you burn twice as many calories than normal and that means you are burning body fat.”

MY COMMENT: Any pair of ski poles? Not exactly. Any stick will do? Any one single stick? Not at all. Start without poles? You certainly can “start” without poles, but then it’s not Nordic Walking, is it?

“For a good start, try walking uphill and use your poles vigorously and try not to put pressure on your knees when walking downhill. Spread the load through your legs. Be sure to take time to perform stretches involving all the main muscle groups so that you will get the most out of Nordic walking.”

MY COMMENT: Start uphill, using your poles vigorously? How about starting on the flat and learning to place your poles correctly with each step before getting all vigorous and heading uphill?

MY FINAL COMMENT: Giving this report the benefit of the doubt, I supposed it is possible that a lot was lost in the translaton, but if not, anyone reading it in the original has a great misconception of just the basics.