Step into Wellness with Walking Sticks

IMG_0191_copyMy dad, a former All American athlete, teacher and coach, has always maintained an active lifestyle and tried to stay in shape. In the past, he recovered from heart and hip surgery by walking regularly. Though his neuropathy has gotten progressively worse, he is not one to sit still, so I gave him walking sticks for his 83rd birthday and told him to set the trend in Sterling.

Since the 1930s, Nordic walking has been used as a means for cross country skiers to train during the summer months because it closely simulated the same movement. However it wasn’t until the late 90’s that pole walking or ski walking took off around the world.

When the activity first originated in Finland, people called it “dementia walking” because people thought walkers forgot their skis. The craze once laughed off as foolish nonsense has gone global. An estimated 3 million people practice pole walking regularly. Since 2004 over a fifth of the Finish population take part in the sport.

Now doctors are aboard, agreeing that it is one of the best forms of cardiovascular workout because it uses all muscle groups. They also recommend that it is ideal for those in cardiac recovery.

  • Engages 90% of your body’s muscle
  • Increases heart rate
  • Burns more calories than ordinary walking
  • Trims the waistline
  • Improves posture
  • Takes pressure off the feet, knees and back
  • Proven to lower Body Mass Index in 12 weeks

Aerobic and anaerobic conditioning forms the core of the workout. Nordic walking requires muscular endurance, balance, range of motion, agility, coordination, efficiency of movement, and visual acuity. Pole walkers must focus forward not down, which helps improve posture. Some experts argue that ski walking provides more health benefits than walking, biking, jogging or running.

According to an article in American Journal of Preventive Medicine in 2013, “studies conducted by NCBI National Library of Medicine show that Nordic walking exerts beneficial effects on resting heart rate, blood pressure, exercise capacity, maximal oxygen consumption, and quality of life in patients with various diseases and can thus be recommended to a wide range of people as primary and secondary prevention.”IMG_0189_copy

In the mountain villages one can see hikers of all ages using walking sticks. In our fitness courses, we teach Nordic walking to our high school students. It is particularly popular with long distance athletes whose joints can no longer take the pounding. When I told my friend Tina, an x runner, about it she immediately joined the movement.

Accolades aside, Nordic walking’s best health benefit is helping maintain a long, active life.

So, what are you waiting for? What better way to invest in your future?IMG_20140816_162919_901_copy

Join Grandpa Jim and get fit.

Posted in education, family, health, inspiration, social view, sport, travel.


    • I think you will really enjoy it. It took me a little practice to get the right rhythm going, but once I did, I was off for a good, painless work out.

  1. A few years ago we visited Acadia National Park in Maine and purchased walking sticks for me. Mainly used for better balance and to help me over the terrain, I loved them.

    Wonderful post, Pat. Even for an old-timer like me! xo

    • Ooh, Cathy, I would love to visit Maine one day. Yes, walking sticks do help with balance and on the the steep mountain inclines over here help give an extra push. And BTW you are not an ol timer!

    • We bought sticks while hiking in the mountains a decade ago and then I forgot all about them until I bought my dad a set. I dug through my closet and found my old Swiss set (painted with cow and edelweise decor) and realized that it does give you a good workout even on flat terrain.

  2. Sis,
    Grandpa Jim setting the trend….who would of guessed? Thanks for helping him keep on moving! And I am hoping the blog will encourage others to give it a try…..even me! 🙂

  3. Good advice Pat. My sister Patty & I started using walking poles several yrs ago on our annual backpacking trips into the mountains of Colorado & Wyoming. I can’t imagine going without them as they help so much with balance, weight distribution, fending off giant ‘skeeters’, etc.. Thanks Pat!

    • Love it, Jim. Maybe they should start making walking sticks with built in electric bug zappers like we used this summer in Wisconsin. Your backpacking trips sound wonderful.

  4. We don’t see many pole walkers in Central Illinois, Pat. Still, how fascinating that it seems to hold so many physical benefits. Glad your dad is starting a new craze! I imagine that’s something I wouldn’t be able to do while walking my dog, though, Ha!

    • Debbie, I think you are on to something. Maybe that should be my next creative endeavor…making walking sticks adapted for dog walkers. My sister, who owns a lab, would love that.

  5. And being so close to Germany you could collect stocknagel for your walking sticks. I’m afraid my original sticks from the 70s aren’t seeing too much use as now I favor the telescoping variety (easier for traveling). Glad to see you are joining the craze! Happy walking everyone!

    • Kathy, I am not surprised you were already ahead of the trend. I bet you see a lot of people Nordic walking in the Land of 10,000 lakes, at least when they aren’t on their bikes. Are motorized vehicles extinct up there yet? ha ha

  6. Pat, I remember how strenuous cross-country skiing was. A great work-out of all muscle groups. So it makes sense that pole-walking would provide the same benefits sans the snow. How wonderful that Grandpa Jim is staying fit. He is a role model for all of us, like my 91 year-old mom who goes to the Y and walks everyday. When my dad was alive, he’d go to the Y with his oxygen tank and walker to do laps around the track. We all need to take these valuable lessons to keep moving from our beloved elders.

    • Cross country skiing is great for overall fitness and the walking sticks work wonders too. With our parents setting the example of how to live vibrant, active, healthy lives, it’s no surprise that we haven’t slowed down. I could just picture your dad going to do his laps with his oxygen tank…and you have inherited that determination.

    • Sheila, I think you’d enjoy Nordic walking, but if you find the sticks get in the way, just throw em over your shoulder and keep on truckin’!ha

  7. Pat, When I traveled through the Alps in my 20’s I took an gentle hike up in the mountains. The guide seemed old to me then (probably around 65), but he was so much more fit than me! And he used those walking sticks. He yodeled too!

  8. Well, I am reporting in on my new walking sticks activity. At first my family members laughed at me but when they decided to join me on a forest walk, they were huffing and puffing in my dust! We did discover however, that perhaps it was best they did not walk behind me. My poles have little rubber booties for walking on the street or sidewalk. You are supposed to take them off for walking on trails. So for my first forest walk I took the booties off and just used the spikes on the tarmac until we hit the trails. My husband was walking directly behind me and the spike got caught in a crack in the sidewalk and he ended up walking right up the pole which was still attached to my hand by the special gloves until it hit his crotch and he nearly fell over. Warn your friends and family until you get a safe walking routine in place!

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