As featured on BBC "Ramblings" with Clare Balding

Two Legs OR Four? Learn to Nordic Walk

Nordic Walking Drills

Can you imagine how it would be walking with four legs instead of two? Your front two striding out while your back legs propel you forwards. So much more efficient. Although being bipedal has its advantages too, or at least our early hominid ancestors must have thought so when they began to stand up a few million years ago. Scientists hypothesise that it’s actually more energy efficient to walk upright and of course it meant we could then evolve to use our hands. But what if we could have it both ways? Upright and having the benefits of all fours. Welcome to Nordic Walking.

Nordic Walking is described as an enhanced walking technique that uses two poles to work your upper body as well as your legs. It effectively gives you two extra legs. This technique benefits everyone from athletes to people with impaired mobility. 

To learn to Nordic Walk we first have to return to the basics and learn to walk again. As toddlers, life was precarious, we had to focus really hard on walking, but for the most of us walking quickly became easy and automatic and something we never really have to think about (until we can’t do it anymore). Without an awareness it’s easy to develop bad habits. Over the years we get injured and become imbalanced, our postures deteriorate, we lose confidence and our walking becomes very inefficient. If things get bad enough we’re given a walking stick or a Zimmer frame and become reliant on these to walk. These merely exacerbate the problem and there is much better solution and that’s addressing our posture and learning to walk again. Unless paralysed everyone has the capacity to improve their posture and walking. 

Once you’re standing and walking correctly it’s time to add the poles. These are specific to Nordic Walking, usually a fixed length, super light with hand straps to allow you to do the full technique. There are steps you need to learn, drills to help you develop muscle memory and coordination, strength to be gained. The full technique is dynamic and akin to Nordic skiing (originating with the Finish cross country team) but can be easily tailored to your ability. It exercises your entire body, not just legs, strengthening your core and using muscles you didn’t know you had. It’s a simple concept but changing how you walk and coordinating this with poles is challenging, you’ll no doubt get frustrated along the way but the effort is so worth it. The health benefits are numerous and well documented through plenty of research. Amazing both physically and mentally, great for back health, cardiovascular (burns plenty of calories), arthritis, diabetes, Parkinson’s and the list goes on.  

Now you’re striding out, standing tall, chest out, head up, feet engaging with the ground, body rotating freely, arms swinging in perfect rhythm with your legs, poles attached to your hands as you push down and back, propelling yourself easily forward. You’re feeling liberated, powerful and confident, moving fast yet it seems so easy. You’re Nordic Walking. Upright but using all fours. 


(British Nordic Walking Instructor, Owner of The Walking Hub and Registered Nurse)

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