A key area that many of our walkers want to trim is their waist. Not only will this help you look great but, more importantly a slim middle has significant health benefits.
As we age (and particularly for women as they go through the menopause) we tend to store more fat around the midsection. Beyond the aesthetic considerations, this poses a serious risk to health. This is because, as well as the fat that lies just below the surface of the skin (called subcutaneous fat) we also store the more dangerous visceral fat which lies under our abdominal wall and between our internal organs. Numerous studies have shown that storing fat around your middle raises blood sugar levels, and increases your risk of developing heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer. It also impacts on blood pressure and cholesterol.
The good news is that visceral fat responds well to exercise and diet. Nordic walking is particularly suitable as it has the potential to both burn calories and whittle your middle. Here are seven things to focus on to achieve that trim, toned tum.
1. Think box
The first is to think of your stomach as a box – two sides, front, back, top and bottom. You need to work on all these areas. The back of the box is your spine and the muscles connecting to it. The front of the box is your abdominal muscles (six pack plus deep core stabilisers). The sides of the box are your obliques. The top is your diaphragm and the bottom your pelvic floor. Together, these muscles form a powerful central stabilising role, protecting your back and your internal organs and facilitating the movement of your limbs. They are also the muscles that you need to work to flatten your stomach and nip your waist.
2. Lengthen your spine
Make sure that you are walking tall, with your head lifted off your shoulders (think about increasing the gap between your ear lobe and your shoulder). This is will lengthen your waist and make you feel slimmer straight away.
3. Tummy in, chest out
Gently pull your tummy button in towards your spine and ‘open’ your chest. The aim is to expand the intercostal muscles that run between your ribs – outwards not upwards (keep your shoulders down). By doing this you are using your diaphragm for postural support as well as breathing. It also has the effect of elongating your middle and providing a great foundation for toning your abdominal muscles.
4. Strong downward pressure through the pole
As I mentioned in a previous blog, you need to plant the pole firmly into the ground and keep the downwards pressure for as long as you can whilst you push the pole backwards (again be careful to keep your shoulders down). This switches on your core abdominals, tightening and toning them.
Rotate your torso. The more upper body rotation you can achieve the more you will work your obliques, the muscle group that forms the sides of the notional box I talked of earlier. That’s a key factor for pulling your waist in.
6. Engage your pelvic floor
Whilst this won’t directly benefit your waist it contributes to a strong core and, of course, it has many other benefits. If you squeeze your glutes (bottom) at the same time as you push down on the pole your pelvic floor also engages.
7. Get out of breath!
Whilst the above will tone and strengthen your middle, you also need to burn those calories to see the difference. The best way to do this is to turn your Nordic walking into a workout. Power up the hills and push yourself hard on the flat. Not all the time of course – but we build a fitness element into all our classes so make the most of those.
Don’t forget if you have any questions on how to make the most of your technique to sculpt, trim and tone, just ask one of us instrutors and we will happily run through it with you.
Bristol & Bath Nordic Walking Team
You can find our favourite Nordic walking poles here and if you’re looking for our advice on best walking kit here’s our recommendations:
walking socks (an important but forgotten factor)