Nordic walking, which utilises a pair of specially designed poles to help propel the body forwards, offers a range of physical and mental health benefits.

1. The Intensity of Running Without the Impact

A study published in the Journal of Biomechanics showed that oxygen uptake at 7.7 km/h was 16 per cent higher with Nordic walking than running. To achieve the same level of oxygen uptake, you would need to run at 9.8 km/h. However, the impact on the lower leg, knee and thigh bones was found to be between 40 and 100 per cent higher in running.

2. Increases Oxygen Uptake and Calorie Burn

On average, Nordic walking results in 20 per cent higher oxygen consumption, calorific expenditure and heart rate compared to normal walking. A study published by the Cooper Institute in Texas compared the metabolic cost of Nordic walking to normal walking in 22 men and women aged 31. Oxygen consumption was between 5 per cent and 63 per cent higher, reflecting differences in poling intensity and technique.

Walk This Way: 10 Reasons To Try Nordic Walking | Men's Fitness UK

Photography: Getty Images

3. Relieves Neck and Shoulder Pain

Nordic Walking improves the functionality of neck and shoulder muscles. Extension of the neck and spine also improves posture, helping to relieve tension and increase upper-body mobility.

4. Increases Stability and Functional Capacity

Nordic walking poles effectively give you two extra legs and anyone with balance problems will benefit from the additional stability the poles offer. In 2018 Public Health England published a review of muscle and bone strengthening and balance activities for general health benefits in adults and older adults for the UK Chief Medical Officer. This found that Nordic walking had a strong effect on improvement in muscle function and balance.

5. Combats Obesity

Nordic walking can improve your cardio-pulmonary fitness by increasing your heart rate by 10-15 per cent more than normal walking. Nordic walking also spreads the load over the whole body, meaning it feels less arduous than some other forms of exercise. The Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) is not significantly higher than for ordinary walking, despite higher energy consumption, which means that not only are you likely to exercise for longer, you are also more likely to keep it up.

Walk This Way: 10 Reasons To Try Nordic Walking | Men's Fitness UK

6. Enhances Mood and Mental Health

Mental health charity Mind recommends ‘ecotherapy’ as a clinically valid treatment for mental distress. Physical activity such as Nordic walking can be as effective as antidepressants or psychotherapy in treating mild or moderate depression, particularly in the longer term.

7. Improves Back Health

Correct use of Nordic walking poles improves posture, lengthening the spine and distributing weight more efficiently. According to the International Nordic Walking Federation, pushing through the poles activates the deep muscles of the abdomen as well as important back muscles, such as the latissimus dorsi, erector trunci, rhomboids and trapezius. Nordic walking also encourages upper-body rotation, helping to lubricate the intervertebral discs.

8. Improves Heart Health

Research presented at the Heart Failure Congress in May 2012 concluded that Nordic Walking allows healthy people and patients with heart failure to safely increase the intensity of exercise and gain additional cardio-respiratory benefits. For the study, 12 patients with heart failure and 12 healthy adults did two six-minute walking tests at a level speed of 5km per hour.

In the healthy group, Nordic walking increased oxygen consumption (VO2) by 37 per cent and 5 per cent higher respiratory quotient. In patients with heart failure, compared to walking without poles Nordic walking increased VO2 by 14.7 per cent and respiratory quotient by 18 per cent.

Walk This Way: 10 Reasons To Try Nordic Walking | Men's Fitness UK

9. Other Health Benefits

The British Nordic Walking Association website refers to a range of research highlighting the benefits Nordic walking offers to people affected by various conditions, including cancer, type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s and asthma. For example, the physicality of Nordic walking helps control blood sugar in patients with type 2 diabetes, even in the absence of weight loss. Nordic walking is an outdoor activity, so you benefit not only from being in the fresh air, enjoying nature, you also get a regular dose of Vitamin D, in which most of us are deficient.

10. Simple but Effective

Nordic walking is one of the fastest growing forms of exercise in the UK. Growing numbers of people, as Dr Mohamed Ghaith Al Kuwari explains, “…have adopted Nordic walking as a favourite recreational physical activity because it moves almost all muscles in the body, can be done at anytime, anywhere, doesn’t require special clothes, and suits all age groups regardless of their fitness level.”

To make sure you get the full health benefits, it’s important to learn the correct technique from a BNWA qualified instructor. You can find one at


Words: Yacob Cajee