The right workout can give you improved strength, flexibility, balance and cardiovascular endurance. But it can also change you and your life in deeper ways.
If you haven't tried Nordic walking yet, you might be confused when I tell you that a simple pair of Nordic walking poles can be life changing for people with hip, knee and back issues and for people who simply think they don't enjoy physical activity. (If you have tried it, of course you know what I mean.)
Here's what 69-year-old Wendy told me when I asked for her thoughts after her first lesson:
"Previously diagnosed with severe osteoarthritis of both hips and degenerative disc disease in my back, I have been unable to engage in the sports that I love. However, to my surprise and delight, I have found that Nordic walking, with the correct body alignment, has made exercising once again a reality for me. I could not be happier to be outside in the fresh air and getting my cardio once again!"
For Jane, a 62-year-old self-described former overweight couch potato with achy hips, Nordic walking seems to have perked up both her fitness and social life.
"I feel like a celebrity," she says with a laugh. "Everyone wants to talk to me about my poles when I'm out walking and hear about my weight loss. Five kilometres feels effortless, and the treadmill seems so dull now."
Bob, an 85-year-old who previously had difficulty walking just half a block, says, "With the poles I can walk five times further! It only took me about 25 steps to get my stride, and off I went. It was amazing. I could feel it in my arms, my back and my upper body. The poles give me stability and confidence, and when I get home I feel like I can take on the world! Unbelievable, phenomenal for a senior who is a diabetic and has some other issues. Best father's day gift ever."
Of course it's a fallacy that Nordic walking is just for the older set, people in rehab and those with joint issues. There are plenty of people under 60 who use poles, have no major health concerns, love to work up a sweat, and who move at the speed of light!
Is Nordic walking the only physical activity that can change your life? Maybe yes, maybe no.
If it's not for you, look for another full-body activity that offers the same factors that make Nordic walking classes so effective: a sociable and interesting group of fellow exercisers; a peaceful and exhilarating nature setting; and a scalable workout intensity that lets you experience the rush of your body's feel-good hormones.