Nordic walking uses two specially designed poles to work the upper body while walking. Like cross country skiing, the poles are used by the arms to match each step the person takes. When participating in Nordic walking, you get a boost in intensity from the arm activity. In Nordic walking the poles engage more muscles and boost the intensity of exercise.
For a better but easier cardio workout, Nordic walking increases your heart rate without increasing your perceived rate of exertion. You get a better workout without feeling like you are working any harder. While you can get a similar heart rate effect by walking faster, there are many people who do not want to walk faster or cannot walk fast.
Exercise experts do not recommend walking with arm weights, which is another popular way to add an upper body workout to a walk. Arm weights put unnatural stress on joints, especially over the length of a recommended fitness walk of a half hour to two hours. Nordic walking works the arms, shoulders and upper chest and back muscles through a full range of motion, stretching and lengthening those muscles which are often tight. The motion works to overcome the hunching forward that many people adopt while working at desks, computers, reading or watching TV.
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