We had an impressive Nordic walk yesterday (Saturday) to the Observatory and back. Everyone was on fine form and the 4.2km was easily achieved within the hour. This surprised quite a few people who, when they first started Nordic walking, would have struggled with this distance. It prompted a discussion about fitness which I thought I’d share with you.
Physical fitness comprises some key components: cardiovascular (cv) fitness; muscular strength and endurance; and flexibility. I would probably add core strength to this as well. We were discussing cv fitness (I will address the other components in later blogs). Essentially this is a measure of how well your heart is able to pump oxygenated blood to your body and how efficiently your body uses that oxygen.
Having good cv fitness has many health benefits. For example, it decreases your risk of heart diseases, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes and other diseases. It is best improved by activities which employ large muscle groups working dynamically. Nordic walking is a perfect example of this as it uses both your upper and lower body muscles to propel you forwards.
Just by Nordic walking you will be increasing your physical fitness in general and your cv fitness in particular. The heart is like any other muscle – it becomes stronger and more efficient the more it is used and worked. Walking in a group has added advantages. You may well end up walking more quickly than you would if you were just out by yourself and there is that extra dimension of the hills. Fast walking and hill walking are both aspects of interval training, one of the most widely used and efficient ways of increasing cv fitness and speed. My key tip when it comes to hills and increasing your cv fitness is ‘don’t stop at the top’! Even if you have pushed yourself up the hill (and I hope you will have), try and keep going for a bit after the top before you stop and have a rest. You will be surprised how well your body recovers and it will result in impressive gains in your cv fitness.