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Walking to wellbeing

PUBLISHED: 10:29 03 October 2013 | UPDATED: 10:41 03 October 2013

Nordic walking leader Mark Richardson at Sandringham with Mike Ennis, Maria Frary and Alex Garford-Turner. Picture: Ian Burt

Nordic walking leader Mark Richardson at Sandringham with Mike Ennis, Maria Frary and Alex Garford-Turner. Picture: Ian Burt

Archant © 2013

Nordic walking is said to be one of the fastest growing fitness activities in the world. It combines walking with the use of poles, in order to engage the upper body and relieve the pressure from the joints.

This increasingly popular style of walking originated in the 1930s, when Nordic skiers continued to train with poles when the snow had melted and discovered how beneficial this activity was. Now with over 10 million avid Nordic walkers worldwide, there is a range of Nordic walking groups making the most of Norfolk’s countryside.

A strong believer in the benefits of Nordic walking is King’s Lynn’s Mark Richardson, who runs a Nordic walking group in west Norfolk. The 51-year-old claims that Nordic walking “can be done at any time of year by absolutely anybody” and that he is yet to meet someone who hasn’t benefitted from it.

The diversity of ages in his walking groups indicates its flexibility - he has clients ranging from in their 80s down to his trendy teenage daughter, all of whom take something away from his walking sessions.

The benefits from Nordic walking range from improving cardio-vascular fitness, to mental wellbeing; it’s even been used as a form of rehabilitation from illness and injury. The major benefit that Mark highlights is the social aspect of the walking, a friendly atmosphere in which everyone has a great time.

To start with, Mark recommends an initial four hours with an instructor, within which you are taught the technique and are made familiar with the equipment. Afterwards, he explains, walkers simply sign up to walks suitable for their level. He runs an assortment of groups which range in difficulty from easy to hard, so that there is something for everyone who wants to embrace Nordic walking.

Mark especially loves to take his groups around the Sandringham area as he finds it particularly stunning, but he points out that wherever there is a willing group, he will be happy to conduct walks.

Despite its growing presence, Mark claims: “You do get some funny looks and comments. Some people say ‘You’ve left your skis behind!’ But you just need to ignore it.”

Fancy having a go? Find the group nearest you through the Nordic Walking UK website www.nordicwalking.co.uk.

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