“Walking is man’s best medicine” said Hippocrates in the 4th century BC. Well, two and a half thousand years later, we're still pretty convinced. With over 80 parks and 2 million trees, and being on the edge of the Peak District, Sheffield is the perfect place for walking. And one great way of taking to the hills on two feet today is Nordic hill walking – it combines the natural beauty that surrounds us with the benefits of fresh air, good company and motivating instructors.
First, though, what exactly is Nordic walking?
Nordic walking is essentially walking using poles. With an experienced instructor, it's a sociable and enjoyable form of exercise (two reasons why people tend to stick with it). Some of its major benefits:
- Using poles means you use your upper body muscles as well as your legs – 90% of the major muscles.
- The poles help to propel you. So even as you work harder than usual, the support given by the poles makes it feel easier.
- It makes you feel lighter on your feet, thus reducing the pressure on knees and hips.
- It can help with neck, shoulder and back problems.
- It's suitable for all levels of fitness.
- It's sociable.
- It's affordable – anybody can go for a Nordic walk anywhere (urban or rural environments) and it doesn't require expensive equipment (most instructors will provide poles, or you can buy a pair for about £30).
Who is Nordic walking suitable for?
Nordic walking is great for anyone of any age looking to be more active but not keen on typical exercise. It's suitable for people with joint pain or health issues, ideal cross training for runners, and can even be a great workplace exercise (instructors often offer corporate sessions).
How do I get started?
It's important to learn the technique from a qualified Instructor who can watch you and correct any faults from the start. It usually takes four one-hour sessions to master the techniques. Intructors will nomrally provide the poles, and once you can Nordic walk you can either buy or hire poles, and either walk alone or join a group for more encouragement.
Jayne Ward- Steps 2Wards Health is a NWUK qualified instructor in Sheffield, who runs regular sessions for beginners.
Article orginally written by Adam Thornton