Is it better to run or walk?

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So many people who join my group do so because they used to run but no longer feel that they can continue (mainly due to injury).  They are often surprised that Nordic Walking can tick many of the boxes that running did (in terms of feel -good factor and energy burn).  Here are some things to consider:


ENERGY EXPENDITURE: It is generally true that running burns more calories faster – almost twice as fast as walking. The average person would need to walk briskly (3.5mph) for 60mins to burn a similar amount of energy to a 30min run (at 5mph).  HOWEVER, if you take account of the fact that Nordic Walking uses your upper and lower body and therefore requires more energy (you are likely to burn up to 40% more calories on Nordic Walk compared to an ordinary walk), there is less difference between the energy expended on a Nordic Walk compared to a run!



IMPACT AND INJURY: We all know that running is much higher impact than walking. This is because when you run both feet leave the ground and when you land, your body absorbs about 3 times your body weight!  When you walk, one foot is in contact with the ground at all times, and so the impact on your body is much lower.  It is no surprise therefore that running has a much higher risk of injury (common running injuries are tibia stress syndrome, achilles tendon injuries and plantar fasciitis).    Some think that more than half of people who run will experience an injury, whereas the risk of injury from walking is less than 1%!  Interestingly though, some research has suggested that there may be a slightly higher risk of osteoarthritis associated with walking over running.  This is believed to be related to BMI (the runners in the study had on average a lower BMI than the walkers) and a lower body weight means less stress on your bones.



TONING: Running mainly targets your leg muscles (calves, hamstrings and quadriceps) and your glutes and the arm swing in running can also help with toning the arms. In Nordic Walking, the poles are used to propel you forwards and as you walk faster in a very controlled way, you will find you engage your leg muscles (and glutes) more than normal walking.  Nordic Walking also requires you to actively use your upper body – arms are extended forward and then are brought right back with each step – this provides quite a workout!  Nordic Walking also requires rotation of your upper body and core, so your abdominals are engaged.  In fact, Nordic Walking uses 90% of your skeletal muscles and for the ladies out there it is fantastic for bums and bingo wings (and possibly a 6 pack!).


POSTURE: Running isn’t necessarily bad for posture however it won’t correct bad posture. Correct Nordic Walking technique should result in improved posture.  The use of the poles and correct rolling through the feet makes you stand taller and means that you use your body in a very balanced way.  By swinging your arms from the shoulder, your back and chest muscles become stronger and more balanced and can help even out any imbalances in the body – most people feel that they have a stronger or weaker side, and it is often noticeable when people start that they drag the pole more on one side (the weaker side).  This does correct itself over time as the body becomes stronger and more balanced. This improved posture and even use of the body can help shoulder or neck pain.


SOCIALITY: Most people can’t talk when they are running. So even if you are running in a group – the chats usually have to wait until the end of the session!  You can gain all the benefits of Nordic Walking and still have a chat along the way!


ENJOYABILITY: At the end of the day any exercise is only effective if you do it consistently, and to be consistent you have to enjoy it. If you have loved running but cannot continue due to injury, Nordic Walking may be a viable alternative.  It is still done outside and you can choose your intensity – and make it as aerobic as you want!


For Nordic Walking to be effective you need to have the right technique – it is not just a case of picking up your trekking poles and walking!  You need to learn how to plant the pole, use your upper body and your feet for maximum propulsion.  If you want to learn the technique and join a wonderful community of Nordic Walkers, contact me to book your induction.


Lead Instructor and Business Owner


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