When it comes to outdoor activities, there are few things more enjoyable than taking a beautiful hike through nature. But what if you want to add a little bit of a workout to your walk? That's where Nordic walking comes in. Here's a comparison of the two activities so you can decide which one is right for you.
Nordic Walking vs. Hiking: The Basics
Nordic walking and hiking both involve walking outdoors, but there are some key differences between the two activities. Nordic walking uses specially designed poles. Nordic walking poles are lightweight and have curved handles that allow you to use them much like ski poles.
Hiking in its basic form, on the other hand, is often done without any hiking poles. Having said that many hikers use trekking poles especially on the descent of steep tracks.
Nordic Walking vs. Hiking: The Workout
Using Nordic walking poles provides a full-body workout, as your arms and upper body get a workout in addition to your legs. Because Nordic walking incorporates the use of your arms, it gives you a more intense workout than hiking alone. If your goal is to burn calories and lose weight, Nordic walking is the clear choice. In fact, one study found that Nordic walkers burned up to 20% more calories than they would have if they had simply gone for a walk without poles.
Having the option of using poles when you go Nordic walking, means they can take some of the strain off your lower body and allow you to go at a faster pace if desired.
Hiking, on the other hand, is generally a slower-paced activity with mostly a lower-body workout, though you will use your arms a bit for balance as you walk. However, if you're an experienced hiker who enjoys more intense cardio workouts, there's nothing stopping you from moving at a quicker clip when hitting the trails.
If your goal is simply to enjoy some time outdoors and get some fresh air, beginners hikes may be the better option for you— especially if you're not looking for an intense workout. Of course, you can always make your hike more challenging by adding hills or other obstacles. The intensity of the hiking workout will depend on the extent of any elevation gain.
Nordic Walking vs. Hiking: The Pros and Cons
Both Nordic walking and hiking offer some great benefits, but there are also some downsides to consider before you choose one activity over the other.
Benefits of Nordic Walking:
It's a full-body workout
You can burn more calories even on a flat trail
It's low-impact on your joints
It's suitable for all fitness levels
Nordic walking is a great choice for people of all fitness levels because it is a low-impact activity that can be done at a variety of speeds and intensities. There's no need to be in peak physical condition to enjoy Nordic walking— That being said, if you're not used to working out at all, you may want to ease into Nordic walking slowly to avoid overexerting yourself.
Drawbacks of Nordic Walking:
You need to buy special equipment
You may need some instruction to get started
Nordic walking is best done on smoother surfaces.
Benefits of Hiking:
Hiking can often be quite strenuous, depending on terrain. You need to be careful to match your fitness levels with the trail difficulty. You should tailor the difficulty of the hike to suit your fitness levels.
You don't need any special equipment
Hiking trails often lead through forests or up mountains, meaning there's more natural beauty to take in—but also more challenging terrain involved.
Drawbacks of Hiking:
Hiking can often be quite strenuous, depending on terrain.
Hills or obstacles can make it equipment challenging. It's can be high impact on your joints especially on your descent on a steep trail.
Bad weather can make it unsafe.
You may encounter wildlife.
You may get lost if you're not familiar with the area.
Which Is Best For You?
Both Nordic walking and hiking offer outdoor lovers a great way to get some exercise while enjoying nature. Which one is right for you ultimately depends on personal preference, your fitness level and what you hope to get out of the activity.
If you're looking for an intense workout that will help you burn calories and lose weight, go with Nordic walking. But if you just want to enjoy some time outdoors with the focus being the trail and where it takes you, opt for hiking instead.
Whichever activity you choose, be sure to wear comfortable shoes and appropriate hiking gear so that you can enjoy your time outdoors to the fullest!