As a health professional and from the point of view of dietetics, I have asked myself many times why people do not react until we have lost our health, until we realize that we are losing it, when a family member or friend leaves us or has a major problem.
Is it necessary to reach the limit when we ourselves have a very effective tool that would allow us to avoid a disease that is a consequence of our lifestyle? It is about finding the balance between movement, food and rest: the three basic pillars of health.
Connecting physical activity with diet is a fundamental health objective for prevention, motivation and knowledge that will help us to make small changes to progressively acquire healthy habits that will harmonize our body.
From personal experience I have found that a very appropriate way of doing a physical activity that suits the needs of everyone and promotes this global approach to health is the Nordic Walk.
Nordic Walking is a physical activity that consists of walking in a natural way with a pair of walking sticks specially designed for impulsion. Nordic walking should not be confused with hiking or trekking with poles, which have a different structure and only act as support.
It is an exercise that adapts to the rhythm and personal needs, so you can work gently, moderately or as intensive training. It is not aggressive for the joints and is motivating: it helps to become aware of one’s own health and, therefore, stimulates and promotes healthy habits such as taking more care of food.
The Nordic Walking technique has to be learned well in order to obtain all its benefits. First of all, it improves posture; with a combination of symmetrical, rhythmic and dynamic movements, it helps to reduce fatigue due to the effect of the work of the arms on the canes, at the same time as it reduces the pressure on the joints of the ankles, knees and hips.
This constant muscular activation, in which the upper body train (waist, torso, shoulders and arms) begins to function, strengthens the spine, prevents back pains, tones the pelvic floor and provides physical and mental well-being.
Nordic Walking is an aerobic work that activates 90% of the musculature of the whole body and also the metabolism; in addition, it increases the lung capacity, helps the blood return with a continuous pumping thanks to the active movement of hands and feet, avoids the swelling of the upper limbs and stimulates the natural lymphatic drainage.
It can be practiced at any age, in a natural or urbaan environment, also on asphalt; alone, in family or group, at any time of day. It can also be integrated in the habitual displacements, if there is not available specific time to do the activity.
Among those who practice Nordic walking, middle-aged women predominate, motivated and willing to include in their daily routine a physical exercise that will also help them to improve their eating habits, because they realise that regular activity is very necessary and beneficial, but that it does not guarantee a healthy life if it is not adequately complemented with the other axes of health, which are good nutrition and adequate rest.
Experience shows that, when these changes are integrated, they not only apply personally but also extend to the family environment and the circle of acquaintances, since the person wants to share this welfare to all the people around him.
What are the benefits of Nordic Walking?
The constant practice of physical exercise entails a set of advantages and gains for health, provided that no excesses or overloads are made, since then it would be more counterproductive than beneficial. It is important that each person is aware of their physical form or limitations and that they start very progressively and adapted to personal characteristics or needs.
Nordic walking is not exempt from these risks, therefore it is necessary to be properly informed and trained, to be placed in the hands of expert professionals in the field, in the same way that a technical base is needed to learn to swim or practice any sport. In this way we will learn to make the movements correctly and progressively, and we will avoid possible injuries due to inappropriate practice or an overload of intensity.
An aerobic activity such as Nordic Walking, practiced moderately and regularly, i.e. for a minimum of thirty minutes a day or sixty minutes on alternate days, helps:
- Decrease overweight.
- Activate metabolism, burn fat and consume calories.
- Lower cholesterol levels.
- Reduce the risk of osteoporosis.
- Avoid secondary lymphoedema in patients operated for breast cancer.
- Reduce the risk of colon cancer.
- To reduce arterial hypertension.
- Sleep better, make more good digestions and maintain an adequate intestinal habit.
- Strengthen the immune system, increase the body’s defenses.
- Control blood glucose levels in type 2 diabetes.
- Regulate hypothyroidism.
- Stop using tobacco, alcohol or drugs.
- Encourage optimism and good humour.
- Improve quality of life.