What is it? A full-body method of walking, where you propel yourself along using a pair of long poles. It’s cross-country skiing, basically, but without the skis or silly clothes.
How much does it cost? Poles can cost anything from £40 to £200 a pair, and beginners are encouraged to take a £60 four-week course (local instructors can be found at exercise-anywhere.com).
What does it promise? Nordic walkers burn around 50% more calories than their regular-walking counterparts. Its real appeal is that it can be adapted to meet personal needs: beginners can use Nordic Walking to deal with mobility problems, while more seasoned athletes can use it as a sports conditioning tool.
What’s it actually like? One of the most pleasant exercises I’ve tried. After spending a few minutes learning how to use the poles – essentially they’re a sort of high-speed gondola punt – all Nordic walking entails is powering through fields while having a nice chat with people. There are a few different techniques to employ (shortening and lengthening your stride, depending on terrain; double-poling up steep hills; full-speed bounding, if you’re feeling particularly fit), but it’s all secondary to the social aspect. The extremely fit will gain little, but for the rest of us it’s just a lovely day out.
Best and worst bit The worst bit came at the beginning, because I kept muddling up which arm should move with which leg. The best bit was getting fresh air and talking to interesting people in the process.
Is it worth it? If you’re after something that’s only mildly strenuous but gets you out of the house and among people, yes, it is.