Teenagers and exercise needn't be poles apart

You may have seen them. Groups of people striding out across the county armed with long poles that look more suited to the ski slopes. These are Nordic walkers.

Nordic walking is one of the fastest growing sports in the United Kingdom. Now a Yorkshire yoga centre is trying to get teenagers interested in the sport.

Yorkshire Yoga, in Knaresborough, has received granted funding from Sport Unlimited to create a new Nordic Walking for Teens course in the Harrogate district.

"Nordic walking is quite unique in that it provides benefits for everybody from those with medical problems to the super-fit," explains Rachel Lomas from Yorkshire Yoga.

"Whatever age, fitness level or goal, Nordic walking is suitable, effective and enjoyable."

The use of poles adds two major benefits to ordinary walking. It means the upper body as well as the leg muscles is used.

"It is known that teenagers are notoriously difficult to get into any sort of sporting activity. We feel that Nordic walking is the perfect way to get them back into sport in the community. It is great fun and also a really good way to get fit," says Rachel.

"All our instructors are fully qualified and recognised by Nordic Walking UK."

Nordic walking is mainly done outdoors.

It originated in Finland in the 1930s when super-fit competitive cross country skiers started to use poles in their off-season training when there was no snow. They soon realised that this was giving them a massive advantage and that the technique was a perfect training aid that kept their heart and lungs in top condition and ensured upper and lower body muscles remained in top shape.

By the 1980s Nordic walking began to be used by more people as a recreational physical activity in its own right and enthusiasts realised that they were achieving a whole body work-out that was fun and simple to incorporate into everyday life.

By the end of the 1990s the Finnish sports institute joined forces with other agencies and the ski pole manufacturer Exel plc to formalize the technique of the sport and to develop specific poles for Nordic walkers.

Research into the effects of this simple technique soon led to it being trialled as a health and rehabilitation technique – results were so impressive that it became a major tool in activity promotion and wellness programmes worldwide.

Nordic walking grew in popularity all over mainland Europe with millions of regular participants.

In some European countries such as Holland, Austria and Germany, Nordic walking rapidly became a mainstream activity with specific magazines dedicated to it as well as clothing, shoes and of course, poles.

The first Nordic walking classes in the UK began in South West London in 2001 and in 2004 Nordic walking UK was formed.

Now there are nearly ten million regular Nordic walkers all over the world and it is rapidly becoming a common sight in Europe, the USA, Australia and the UK.

NWUK have trained over 1,000 Instructors

Yorkshire Yoga is holding a number of free after school tasters in a bid to enlist a whole new generation of Nordic walkers.

Free after-school taster sessions at Harrogate's Hookstone Wood and the King George playing field in Knaresborough are being held all this week

Under the instruction of qualified Nordic Walking UK instructors, teens can experience how this sociable activity is a fun way to get a total body work out. The 10-week Teens course then starts the week beginning January 17 and is offered at a special subsidised rate, averaging 2 a session.

Pedometers will determine the winner of the 10-week competition, who will receive a prize at the end of March.

Fast-growing way to a workout

Nordic walking uses poles in order to add two major benefits to walking.

The use of poles means the upper body muscles are used as well as the legs.

The poles help to propel the walker along – this means he or she works harder than usual yet the support given by the poles makes it feel easier.

Nordic walking is the fastest growing fitness activity in the world.

For more information, contact Yorkshire Yoga on 01423 864343 or visit the website and book online at www.yorkshireyoga.co.uk

We feel that Nordic walking is the perfect way to get them back in to sport.

Getting young people to take exercise is never easy. Catherine Scott looks at one way of getting them active in the great outdoors.