Pole Walking - how the Nordic walking technique is becoming popular in Yorkshire

PUBLISHED: 00:00 08 August 2018

Nordic walking is now one of the fastest growing sports in Europe Photo: Getty Images

Nordic walking is now one of the fastest growing sports in Europe Photo: Getty Images

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Two Saltburn women talk the talk about walking the walk

There are treks for all abilities on local trails and hidden footpaths along the Yorkshire coast and the North York Moors Photo: Getty ImagesThere are treks for all abilities on local trails and hidden footpaths along the Yorkshire coast and the North York Moors Photo: Getty Images

How do you fancy walking pole to pole? No, not in a Michael Palin way; in a Nordic walking way. This fitness walking technique using two specially-designed poles to add upper body propulsion has been practiced in Finland since the early 1900s, when athletes training for winter cross-country skiing began walking in the summer using ski poles.

In 1966, Helsinki gym teacher Leena Jaaskelainen started to teach her students a new ‘walking with ski poles’ technique, which she continued finessing until 1987 when she presented her ideas to the Finnish Central Association for Recreational Sports and Outdoor Activities.

At the same time, Mauri Repo was also promoting exercising with ski poles, publishing his book, Cross-county Skiing Training Methodic, in 1979 and setting the template for modern Nordic walking.

The Finnish might have started it, but in more recent years the rest of the world has started walking in a distinctly Nordic fashion too.

Experienced the benefits of  Nordic walking - a total body workout which burns lots of calories and brings other health benefits Photo: Getty ImagesExperienced the benefits of Nordic walking - a total body workout which burns lots of calories and brings other health benefits Photo: Getty Images

Now, devotees – and canny businesswomen – Pat Smillie and Jo Davy have picked up the pole (as opposed to the usual baton) to offer the healthy hobby on Yorkshire’s coast and moors.

They have launched Coast & Moors Nordic Walking after a number of successful years leading Nordic walks for private clients around Saltburn, Redcar and Guisborough.

‘We were inspired to begin Nordic walking ourselves when we experienced at first-hand the benefits of a total body workout which burns lots of calories and brings other health benefits such as improving posture, walking more efficiently and protecting your joints,’ said Pat.

Nordic walking has been around for years, but it wasn’t until the late 90s that it really began to take off as a workout option. Research showed how the walking technique could burn up to 46 per cent more calories than ordinary walking and, as a result, more people began picking up their poles. Since then, Nordic walking has continued to steadily gain popularity and is now one of the fastest growing sports in Europe.

Pat and Jo are both experienced Nordic walking instructors, leading treks for all abilities on local trails and hidden footpaths along the Yorkshire Coast and the North York Moors. They also recently expanded their trail destinations to the Esk Valley Way after clients asked for longer, more ambitious walks.

‘It’s fantastic and motivational to see many of our clients achieving their personal goals such as weight loss, improving their fitness levels and managing to exercise outdoors whilst managing health conditions like asthma,’ said Jo. ‘If people aren’t sure if Nordic walking is for them, they can try one of our free taster sessions. There’s no pressure – just give it a go.’

The Nordic walking technique, which engages the whole body and is suitable for all ages and fitness levels, reaps impressive results for people who have had mobility problems in the past. The poles provide extra stability and help with endurance, literally helping to keep walkers going that extra mile (or three).

‘We were very touched to learn how we helped a lady who initially struggled to walk a quarter of a mile without getting out of breath,’ said Pat. ‘She now regularly walks three to four miles twice a week and tells us we have really helped turn her life around. She loves Nordic walking and, frankly, so do we.’

For more information, visit www.coastandmoorsnordicwalking.com

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