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Nordic walking ensures full body workout
Low-impact exercise keeps walkers fit

Samantha Stokell
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, September 1, 2011

For people looking for a low-impact, total-body exercise, Nordic walking could be it.

NNSL photo/graphic

Nordic walking got started again on Aug. 28 with participants Winston Moses, left, Albert Elias, Ruth Grandon, Aiden Donne, Alfred Moses and Andre George. Every Sunday at 2 p.m., the group will walk three to five kilometres with hiking poles, ensuring the whole body gets exercise. - Samantha Stokell/NNSL photo

The NWT Recreation and Parks Association has started offering free Nordic walking classes every Sunday afternoon in Inuvik starting at 2 p.m. Instructor Alfred Moses leads the group on a three- to five-kilometre walk around town, with hiking poles to ensure the entire body is receiving the benefits of exercise.

"You engage more muscles than regular walking and with more muscles put to work, you burn more calories and lose weight faster," Moses said. "The poles provide stability on rough terrain or ice or support for people doing rehab and it's good for dry training for skiers."

This the second year for Nordic walking in Inuvik. Last year, a group managed to keep walking all through the winter, battling -40 C temperatures and ice roads to keep fit. With proper attire, walkers can continue their exercise all year.

"Just dress for the weather," Moses said. "Walking with the poles uses more muscles which burns calories and keeps us warm."

Walker Aiden Donne started last year and has continued coming out for a number of reasons: to build stamina and strength, lose weight and get healthy. Donne said Nordic walking is an ideal activity to achieve those goals.

By adding poles when walking, the entire body receives a workout. Instead of just muscles in the leg benefiting from exercise, the chest, lats (back muscles), triceps, biceps, shoulders and abdominals are involved in the movement.

With an increased pace, improvement can be seen in those areas, as well as in heart rate and oxygen-delivery efficiency. The use of poles provides greater ease in climbing hills, burns more calories than regular walking and improves balance and stability.

"I did it last year and really enjoyed it," Donne said. "It's good to be outdoors. There's a lot more resistance because of the upper-body workout."

For Winston Moses, walking is the best exercise for him. Add in the poles and he's in great shape.

"It's great, it works the arms and legs together and my whole body is in motion," Moses, 67, said. "And my mind is getting sharper since I started walking. It's like any exercise. I feel younger."

Nordic walking is not simply walking with poles. As with other sports, there is a proper technique to maximize the benefits. It works best if the poles remain behind the walker and point diagonally backwards at all times. Shoulders should be down with poles held close to the body.

To ensure the upper body receives a workout, push the poles back as far as possible, with the arm straightened to a continuous line.

"There are some techniques that help build up the triceps, but that's for more advanced walkers," Alfred Moses said. "But if you're walking to lose weight, you will definitely lose more if you walk with poles."

Nordic walking is increasing in popularity in Canada and also in the North. Last year, there was the Mackenzie River walking challenge amongst all the communities in the NWT to see who walked the furthest. Moses hopes the group will get a pedometer this year to use as a measure of distance and to increase motivation for people to get outside.

Anyone interested is welcome to join the group on Sundays.

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