Wed 24, Apr 2019

Nordic walking – an alternative to running

Nordic walking

Many people enjoy running for all the excellent physiological and psychological effects, but if it causes issues for your pelvic floor, then Nordic walking is a great alternative. It’s low impact and can increase your upper body strength and endurance.

Nordic walking is defined as fitness walking with specially designed poles. It has been used for more than 40 years by Finnish cross-country skiers and is one of the most popular outdoor sports in Europe, with over 15 million people participating each year.

The main reason for Nordic walking’s popularity is that body weight is distributed over four points of contact with the ground (feet and two poles) during the activity. This reduces joint impact and often eliminates hip, knee, foot and back pain. The arms and legs move rhythmically, and research conducted in Finland and the US showed the result as a 20-25% increase in cardiovascular fitness. This is all accomplished while walking—a pelvic floor safe activity.

The action of driving the poles into the ground to help with propelling forwards has proven to significantly improve muscle tone and density in the upper body, with a 37% increase in muscle power. It is interesting to note that the individuals who were being tested did not feel that Nordic walking increased intensity compared to walking without poles over the same distance at the same speed.

Rodgers et al. (1995) showed that walking with Nordic poles significantly improved energy expenditure. 24-year-old fit women had higher mean maximal aerobic power (21 vs. 18ml/kg/min) and heart rate (133 vs. 122 bpm) when compared to walking without poles. The caloric expenditure in a 30 minute session with poles was 174 kcal compared with 141 kcal when walking without poles. The best part was that the perceived rate of exertion when walking with poles was not significantly greater than walking without the poles.

Written by fitness professional Marietta Mehanni. 

Further reading:

  1. Fritschi J, Brown W, Laukkanen R, & Uffelen J (2012). The effects of pole walking on health in adults: A systematic review. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science, 22(5), E70-E78.
  2. Rodgers CD, VanHeest JL, Schachter CL (1995). Energy expenditure during submaximal walking with Exerstriders. Med Sci Sports Exerc 27:607–611.

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