Total Body vs. Half Body: Nordic walking poles add an upper body workout for the deltoids, lats, pecs, triceps and abdominals. By adding the upper body workout, calorie burning is increased up to 40% yet with no increase in how hard the walker feels they are exercising. Nordic walkers get a "total body" workout without feeling like they are working any harder than just walking.
Relieve Shoulder and Neck Stress: Using the correct nordic walking technique with relaxed shoulders, keeping the poles behind the body and using a full range of motion, the walker also releases stress carried in the shoulders and neck. Taking the arms and shoulders through the full range of motion throughout a 30 minute walk is a great antidote to the slouching many people do over desks and computers.
Leave the Weights at Home: Exercise experts do not recommend walking with arm weights, which is another popular way to add an upper body workout to a walk. Arm weights put an unnatural stress on joints, especially over the length of a recommended fitness walk of a half hour to two hours.
Can it Work Without Poles? Walkers can experience similar upper body effects by using correct racewalking arm motion. However, that can be difficult to achieve without coaching. At a recent workshop by noted coach Martin Rudow, all participants had to be worked with to get the proper arm motion. Loosening the shoulder, concentrating on moving the arms back and not bringing them too far forward or too high were the main objectives. Walkers using the poles can fall into some of the same poor patterns if they plant the poles too far forward rather than at the heel of their leading foot.