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Making This *One* Tweak to Your Daily Walk Benefits Both Your Body and Your Brain

Nordic walking doesn't just give you a great workout. According to a psychologist, it's also an easy way to give your brain a boost, especially as you age. Here's how to get started.

nordic walking
Written by
Riley Baker
We all know the benefits of spending time outside in
(goodbye stress, hello improved mental health!), which is why
daily walks
are always a good idea. But Nordic walking takes things to the next level.
Nordic walking, which utilizes poles, started as a way for cross-country skiers to train during the
summer months
. Now, it's a body- and brain-boosting walking trend that's become popular for athletes and non-athletes of all ages.
If you've been curious about Nordic walking, here's everything you should know before getting started.

What Is Nordic Walking, Exactly?

nordic walking
Nordic walking involves using walking sticks—or literal sticks from nature—as you're going about your daily walks. Instead of just activating the muscles in the lower half of your body, you're also activating your shoulders, arms, core, and legs, engaging up to
90% of your muscles
, as opposed to just 50%. But that's just the beginning of the benefits.

The Benefits of Nordic Walking

Using poles or sticks while Nordic walking engages your full body instead of just your lower half, giving you a more challenging workout. In fact, past research has found you could burn up to 67% more calories on a Nordic walk than you would on a regular walk.
Aside from improving your cardiovascular fitness, psychologist
Dr. Abbie Jones
says Nordic walking is also beneficial to your brain health, especially as you age.

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"There have been so many studies on Nordic walking and its effect on overall physical health, and it's also a predictor of cognitive decline," says Dr. Jones in a
TikTok video
. "Nordic walking engages your arms and shoulders way more than regular walking does. And it increases your grip strength, which has long been researched to be a predictor of cognitive decline in older adults."
While Dr. Jones says she's not suggesting grip strength causes cognitive decline, she is suggesting overall physical health is directly related to cognitive decline. To get brain benefits along with the body benefits, she recommends doing something cognitively taxing while taking a Nordic walk.
Dr. Jones says one way to do this is to choose a topic that interests you that you don't know anything about, then spend some time researching that topic. The next day, meet up with your walking buddy and share what you learned.
You can also listen to challenging podcasts or audiobooks that really make you think, count backward from 107 by sixes... "if it makes you think hard, it counts," she says.

How to Start Nordic Walking

nordic walking
Now that you've heard the benefits, you're probably ready to start your Nordic walking journey as soon as possible. Lucky for you, getting started is super easy—you just need to buy a set of adjustable poles, or do as Dr. Jones does and just utilize walking sticks found in nature. (Yes, literal sticks!)
Once you've secured your poles, simply go on a walk using your normal walking form. Even though you have poles in hand, you don't need to change what you're already doing. According to the
Cleveland Clinic
, when you're walking, the poles simply remain by your side and are angled slightly back so they don't affect your typical movement. What they can do, however, is help propel you forward, giving you a little push during your walks.