Nordic walking offers exercise for more than just the legs

Vi Pearce, Debbie Metclaf, and instructor Lara Thompson do some Nordic walking around the Morinville Fish and Game Association’s pond Apr. 11. The new exercise program takes place on Wednesdays until May 30. – Stephen Dafoe Photo

By Stephen Dafoe

Morinville – Walking around the trails in Morinville dragging a couple of ski poles behind you might look a little odd to the casual observer, but for practitioners of Nordic walking the poles are anything but odd. In fact, they serve several purposes, the least of which is helping walkers to burn off a few more calories during their walk.

The Town of Morinville kicked off a Nordic walking program Apr. 11 at the Morinville Fish and Game Association’s pond trail. Instructor Lara Thompson of Pure Physique spent the first lesson teaching her class how to use the specially-designed hand-held Nordic walking poles, and then setting them off around the trail loop to get their exercise on. Subsequent Wednesday sessions will put participants out on the community’s greater trail system as Nordic walkers become more accustomed with the technique. But wherever the walkers go, the ultimate goal is getting a good work out.
“I think it’s a great full-body work out,” Thompson said, adding the specially-designed poles provide resistance to give the upper body a work out. “People don’t maybe appreciate how challenging it can be.”

Thompson told her class Nordic walking burns 40 per cent more calories and increases the heart rate by 10 per cent more than regular walking achieves. “If you have any challenge bringing your heart rate up to a training level, this will help,” she said. “It takes walking, which incorporates just your lower body muscles, and works out your upper body.”

One participant who was pleased with the first session was Vi Pearce. “For the first time trying this out, I thought it was great,” she said. “I can see me get more into the swing of it once I get in better shape. It’ll be a better work out.” Pearce said she was prompted to give Nordic walking a try in order to get some exercise and to lose some weight. “I have high blood pressure and my sister quilted me into it,” she said.

Pearce’s sister, Debbie Metcalf, said she was looking for exercise as well. “I’m enjoying it,” she said of the opening session. “It reminds me of my old cross-country skiing days.”

The comparison is an appropriate one. Thompson explained cross-country skiing is an effective calorie-burning activity because both large upper and lower body muscles are fully engaged. Nordic walking provides similar cardiovascular and general fitness benefits, and can be practiced year round.

Thompson said the program is ideal for people of all ages. Her own daughters, aged 6 and 7, have given Nordic walking a try. The activity is particularly beneficial to seniors as it can be done at their own pace and does not have the high impact and damage to joints that other activities can have. Additionally, the Nordic walking poles can provide some stability for those who may not have perfect balance.

The program takes place Wednesdays until May 30 from 11 a.m. until noon. Cost is $30 per person for the program. For more information on Nordic walking in Morinville contact the Town of Morinville Community Service Department at 780-939-7888.

Nordic walking provides 40 per cent more burned calories than conventional walking, and increases the heart rate by 10 per cent over conventional walking. The special poles provide resistance that works the upper body along with the lower body. – Stephen Dafoe Photo

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