Nordic pole walking can increase muscle recruitment, burn calories


If you see what looks like cross-country skiers in your neighborhood, it is probably Nordic pole walkers.

Nordic pole walking is fitness walking with specially designed poles, similar to snow skiing poles, and developed through off-season ski-training activity.

Dubra Karnes-Padilla, semi-retired UNM-Valencia Campus fitness instructor and certified personal trainer, gave a Nordic pole walking workshop recently at the Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area in La Costancia as part of the WWCA Speaker Series program.

Walking with poles burns about 150 more calories per hour than just walking, which burns about 300 calories an hour, Karnes-Padilla said.

Walking with poles increases muscle recruitment and upper body movement that increase aerobics at slow speeds.

"The benefits besides burning extra calories is that it's not perceived as a hard workout," she said. "Actually you're expending more calories and your heart rate is elevated."

The health benefits of walking with poles include improved balance, making it safer to walk, upper body movement and cardiovascular function, improved stability and posture, decreased neck and shoulder stiffness and increased flexibility. It also improves coordination and gait, as well as having a meditative and calming effect.

"A lot of your problems get solved while you're walking and you're thinking clearly about it," she said. "Our brain becomes activated with that movement."

Walking enhances your mood because as you walk, there's a shifting between the right and left hemispheres of your brain, she said.

A 30-minute walk can clear your head and rejuvenate your energy level.

A low level of fitness requires 150 minutes of exercise a week, or 30 minutes each day, and to maintain a moderate level of fitness requires 350 minutes per week, or 60 minutes a day, she said.

It is important to get the proper length of pole for your particular height. There are different types of poles, and they range in price from $18 to $80. She recommends the adjustable type, because they are more convenient. They can be folded up into a size you can carry in a backpack or store in your car more easily.

Purchasing a pedometer is helpful in keeping track of how many miles you walk while out pole walking, or just going about your day.

One mile is the equivalent of 2,000 steps, five miles is equivalent to 10,000 steps.

"It is recommended that we get 10,000 a day. Unfortunately, Americans don't even get 1,500 steps a day," Karnes-Padilla said. "Our lifestyles have changed a lot since the 1950s and '60s where people walked to school … We need everyone to be moving more and that instructs our youth."

People who keep active are active all their lives, since a body in motion tends to stay in motion, she said.

Any kind of movement counts, you just need to have enough of it.

"A heart rate monitor and a pedometer are one thing that can keep us aware, keep us honest, because sometimes you think, 'Oh, I moved today,' and then you look down at that and go, 'Oh no, I didn't.'"

To learn more about pole walking, she recommends the book "Nordic Walking," by Malin Svensson, who is the president of Nordic Walking USA."

"This is who got me started on Nordic walking," Karnes-Padilla said. "She lives in Santa Monica, California, and is a certified coach with International Nordic Walking Association."

Karnes-Padilla has a master's degree in physical education with and emphasis in sports management from the University of New Mexico. She was a fitness instructor at UNM-VC, and managed the Fitness and Wellness Education Center.

For information about Nordic pole walking, visit the website at, or for information about the Whitfield Wildlife Conservation Area Speaker Series, visit the website

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