A very recent visitor to this blog added the following comment to one of my posts on a very different topic. I think it merits spotlighting. She wrote:
“I love walking, for health and for my peace of mind. And, living in Pennsylvania’s beautiful Pocono Mountains, it’s wonderful in my own backyard. When I want to use it to lose weight, I concentrate on hills and moving faster.What I don’t really understand is why adding a couple of poles in my hands will make it that much more healthy or vigorous. Besides, how do you hold a dog’s leash while Nordic Walking?”
I’m not a physiologist, and I haven’t yet run my conclusions by one, but here’s what I think the bonus provided is from “adding a couple of poles.” When you are simply walking, it is mostly the muscles of your legs and lower torso that are engaged in the activity. Swinging your arms as you stride doesn’t work the muscles of the arms, shoulders and upper torso with anywhere near comparable intensity.
In order to provide an upper-body/arm workout, some people use handweights while walking or running. However, many experts believe that the possible risks are greater the benefits. Carrying hand weights doesn’t provide the strengthening and toning benefits that lifting weights does, but it does stress the joints and ligaments, and can even be problematic for people with blood-pressure issues. These experts suggest a walking program for cardio, weight-loss and general conditioning, and a weight program for building strength and maintaining or increasing bone health.
Proper Nordic Walking technique, by contrast, not only helps protect the joints, but also burns more calories than simple walking because the upper body is actively engaged in the movements. The oft-quoted 2000 study by the Cooper Institute found that Nordic Walking burns up to 46 percent more calories than plain old walking. The operative words are “up to.” That doesn’t mean that every Nordic Walker will burn that many more calories on every Nordic Walk, but it certainly is encouraging.
I don’t have a dog, so this is not first-hand experience. It seems that it is best to somehow attach a long (but not too long) leash to your waist, perhaps with a carabiner onto a belt or waist pack. There may be some kind of special device that I don’t know about but will eventually try to research. If you let your dog sniff and do its business while you are warming up, he or she will probably be ready to join you on a vigorous walk with less distraction. As with any leashed dog, some like to lead, while some like to follow (or have been trained to heel). If you have a huskie or a greyhound, you might really have to crank to keep up!