Are you looking for a workout that engages 90% of your body’s muscles and is easy to do, even if you’re not athletic? Nordic walking – also called urban poling is that workout. While popular in Europe, it’s been slow to catch on in North America. I’m doing my bit to change that.

On occasion I use poles for hiking, but it’s usually been because of an injury or I know I’ll be crossing streams or descending gnarly, steep slopes. Walking with poles has never been the basis of a workout – though it will be now.

In September I did a full day hike along Pocaterra Ridge in Kananaskis Country with a number of women. Mandy Johnson, a Canmore resident and urban poling master trainer was along on that hike. She brought a pair of urban poles for me to try that are specifically designed for the sport and then gave me a quick lesson on how to use them.

Nordic Walking: Why You Need to Try It

That’s me in the middle with the urban poles (Photo credit: Mandy Johnson @activebynature)

For starters, the poles are lightweight and comfortable. The hand grip is different from a traditional pole in that it has a place to rest your hand at the side – which also acts in such a way that you can press down on the pole and activate your core. Trust me, it’s easy and despite my love of the outdoors, I am usually awful at catching onto anything new.

You can easily adjust the length of the poles. The bottom of the pole has a miniature rubber hiking boot on it that works well on city streets but can be easily removed for hiking in more natural conditions. There are no straps to avoid injuries and I doubt you’ll miss them. Poles are marked with an R and an L – referring to right and left poles.

Nordic Walking: Why You Need to Try It (& a Giveaway)

The removable mountain boot at the end of the pole

For a guide on how to use the poles visit the website here for instructions. (It will take 5 minutes for you to become a pro.)

What can Nordic walking /urban poling do for your body because in the end that’s what matters?

  • If you keep at it you will develop abs of steel – or at least aluminum. According to the urban poling website you can count on 1,000 abdominal contractions for every kilometre you walk.
  • You can wear shortsleeves again as you’ll be sculpting your arms and shoulders.
  • Count on burning up to 46% more calories compared to walking. (No wonder I was so hungry after a six hour hike on Pocaterra Ridge.)
  • The pole helps take the weight off your hips and knees so you’re likely to have less pain.
Nordic Walking: Why You Need to Try It

The urban poles in action

Where can you buy urban poles?

Check out the interactive map on the website to see where you can buy poles close to you. Or shop online here. The adventure series poles I have retail for $Cdn119.99.

URBAN POLES GIVEAWAY – Januray 1, 2018

I have one pair of urban poles (adventure series) to give away that would be suitable for anyone weighing up to 225 pounds. To enter please leave a comment on the blog telling me where you’d walk with these poles. The giveaway closes at 6PM MT, January 8, 2018. I will randomly pick a winner at that time and notify the winner who will have 24 hours to respond.

For even more information about these poles visit Canmore based Active by Nature.  You can even sign up for a Nordic walking trip to Europe.

Note: The winner of the poles is Barb Marshall. Thanks to all who entered.

Leigh McAdam

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
HikeBikeTravel
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Join the discussion 61 Comments

  • Barry Varty says:

    Cool idea for adding to an already great workout while out hiking. I really enjoy day hiking in Kananaskis Country and around Nordegg as well. I think taking these poles along while out hiking would add to the already incredible experience.

  • Margaret Wilson says:

    I travel to New Zealand every year to visit my daughter. The most beautiful country just made for hiking with these poles!

  • Darrell K says:

    Love your site, nice short reads and inspiring to me to get out, I would use them next year doing the larch trail and sentinel pass as this year it was a little icy, would be safer.

  • Melanie G says:

    There are a few beautiful places in my little town where I’ve seen others urban poling. I live near a bay shore trail as well as the infamous County where there are countless trails and always new ones to find!

  • DVORA KAPLAN says:

    I would love to use these poles on my next hike – Israel National Trail (INT). This hiking trail crosses Israel from the deserts of the south to the green mountain ranges of the north. I am planning to do a part of the hike, since the INT is approximately 1000 km long.

  • Jodi says:

    Leigh.
    It was so nice to meet you today at Pipestone Travel Store in Willow Park. I LOVE your blog! So much amazing info! Not to mention the awesome scenery! I’d love to win the Nordic poles for my hikes in K Country! We are so lucky to get to live in nature!!
    Best
    Jodi

  • Tom says:

    Would use them every time I go out for a hike in the Kananaskis or the National Parks

  • Paul Levett says:

    I would use them every time I hike in the mountains. On my trip to Mt Baker this summer, I learned how helpful poles are when descending. They really save the knees!

  • Peg says:

    Oh I would so love to use these poles to shape up for a hiking holiday in Spain. Positive thoughts

  • Sharron Harris says:

    Already have the pink4life series, but would love the adventure series as they collapse smaller making them easier to pack in my suitcase when I travel. Going for a month to the Dominican Republic and plan on doing a lot of walking so these would be great.

  • Jan says:

    Love your posts/pictures. I would use these poles for the next time I do Ha Ling. They would help a lot especially at the top!

  • Sue Earl says:

    I would love to take these poles on our vacation to New Zealand next March. Our son and daughter-in-law have lived there for some time, and now that we’re retired, we can go for a long-awaited visit. My arthritic knees make a lot of walking difficult, so these poles would be very helpful.

  • Valerie says:

    Just today starting investigating this ‘new’ type of exercise workout for me…..and I found you, thru the Urban Poling site…lucky me….I am VERY pumped to get started with these and possibly I will be the lucky one to win your giveaway.. We have a beautiful rural property where I can start my routine out!! Many thanks, cheers, Valerie :)

  • Sharon says:

    I have a set of poles and I found I was more motivated to go for walks more often in the evening, even for 15 minutes around the community. I have also taken them on holidays, because they are so compact. I showed my two sisters how to use them this summer. I have also walked in the river valley with friends and took my poles – especially as we cut through the bush on rougher trails which had tree roots and steeper slopes. I certainly felt more confident with the poles. An extra set would come in handy – as I could take them along for a friend.

  • Linda N. says:

    I would walk with these poles at local nature trails and probably also at the park because they look fantastic and I’d love to get more of a workout walking.

  • Vicki Kechekian says:

    I’d use those poles pretty much any/everywhere.

  • Vicki says:

    Leigh, do you use the nordic poles in your own exercise routine or on your hikes? I have a pair of Klomperdell hiking poles and wonder whether they could be used like nordic poles. Thank you.

    • @Vicki I think the big difference is that there is an ergonomic handle that allows you to engage your core with every step – if you choose and a soft “hiker foot” so your arms aren’t pounded on pavement. Does that help?

  • Rosalyn says:

    I live in beautiful Colorado and would take the poles on a hike through the Black Canyon of the Gunnison which is a national park now..The thing I love about the poles is how lightweight they are..so if we get to an area that is impassable I can tuck
    the poles under my arm and proceed on foot or knees for me which is often the case.
    I got the poles when I was in PT learning to balance better and they really helped my stability. I like to use them on flat
    surfaces and love the little shoes or feet on them.
    Being on a fixed income it was a bit of a challenge to my finances, but they have helped me regain my mobility.Thank you.

  • Judy says:

    Hey Leigh,
    Love your blog and your spirit of adventure. I would use the Nordic poles on every hike, however more specifically I will use them when I hike in Nepal this coming fall. Happy trails!
    Judy

  • Sybille says:

    I’ve been wanting new poles for a while, these sound great. Living in Calgary I try and go hiking almost every weekend, Kananaskis and Lake Louise area being my favourites, but if I can’t make it to the mountains, there’s always time for a quick hike in Fish Creek Park.

  • Darsha says:

    I would love to use the poles around my fairly flat area of southern Wisconsin, and possibly on an upcoming trip I’m planning to take my kids to see glaciers in Canada (quick! Before they’re gone!)

  • Christy says:

    Hiking in Kananaskis. Then I would check your blog to find other great spots to try!

  • Marie Van Chadwick says:

    Urban hiking poles sound like a great way to re-condition my body for many hikes we have planned in Northern BC and the Yukon. I would hike around the lovely trails in the Shuswap/Okanagan to develop those abs of aluminum. Since turning 68 my hips complain as do my knees so they need some help.

  • Jo Beyers says:

    Love these poles for my daily walking where I live in rural northern Ontario. Why? Because a) I need to get in better shape; and b) I need to not fall!

  • Teree Hokanson says:

    I would use these poles to simply walk more – around town, on pathways, just move more

  • Candace Cossaboom says:

    My boyfriend and I are making plans to do The West Coast Trail on Vancouver island this summer ! I recently read a book about it and the writer firmly recommended having hiking poles! Lol talk about great timing! Good luck to everyone who enters, and happy hiking!

  • Mary Reilly says:

    With those poles I would like to visit Japan. Never been and it looks amazing. Thank you.

  • Mei says:

    Great article Leigh! Pocaterra Ridge is actually one of the hikes I’d love to do this year, as well as many others in the Kananaskis area.

  • Lina says:

    I love walking and would use these poles to walk on the beautiful paths near our home in Calgary. I would like to do more hiking in our beautiful Rocky Mountains and would use these poles to explore the many trails nearby.

  • Anita Farnsworth says:

    I just learned how to do this & need poles! I live in a city but there are walking trails that I could use them on to get fit this year! Love that it is low impact & better for my knees & works my core & posture.

  • Minh Huynh says:

    I would like to use them on my first hike of the year! Destination to be determined but I want abs of steel!

  • Donna Bassett says:

    Fresh air, good company, and adventure walking poles. What’s not to like?

  • Tracy Sauchenko says:

    I’m looking forward to developing a pole walking routine for 2018!

  • Bethe Goldie says:

    Urban poles are the best!!! They are a wonderful travel companion and walking buddy!!! I have used my Activator poles in South Africa, France, England, Guernsey Island, USA, Iceland, and of course, Canada!!!! Adventure poles are even better for big trips in my future!! The ergonomic handles are so comfortable and easy on my slightly arthritic hands.

  • Terri Harding says:

    Wow! That would be an inspiring way to get moving this year! Over 31 million seconds to do things better- that’s my motto for the year. I want to hike this year in the mountains and not feel tired by just thinking about it.

  • Joan Woroschuk says:

    I would walk at the Wapiti Ski Trails in Grande Prairie.

  • Melinda Bensler says:

    In the winter I walk on the walking path at the local YMCA in Medicine Hat. I’ve only seen one other person walk with poles at the Y. I’m so glad I learned the correct way from Mandy. :) When walking outdoors in and around the community I like to have a bag with me and pick up garbage. Using urban walking poles makes this cumbersome. Anyone have any ideas for me so I can get in a good walk and also do my part to keep my community clean? As for a new place to hike…some warm beach somewhere…maybe the Amalfi Coast with Mandy.

    • Hi Melinda:

      Mandy here. Wow…. cool to hear I introduced you to Nordic walking in Medicine Hat. Too bad the YMCA in Medicine Hat hasn’t realized what an amazing job it does of turbo-charging walks on an indoor track! Good for you for picking up garbage on your walks! If you don’t have an old backpack you could use specifically for trash-stash, then pick one up from your local thrift shop for a buck or two. You could line it with a plastic bag. If it has a separate outer compartment or two, you could use those for storing your work gloves and other essentials. Hey yeah…… perhaps we will meet again on the Amalfi Coast adventure or when I make a return trip to Medicine Hat. Happy trails in 2018!

  • Judy Anderson says:

    I would hike the trails around Tumbler Ridge, British Columbia. There are many waterfalls and hiking paths to explore.

  • vivian henry says:

    Banff, AB, would be wonderful.

  • mary checkley says:

    I SPENT A MONTH ON THE COSTA DEL SOL IN SPAIN THIS PAST MARCH AND USED MY POLES ON THE WALK WAY, THE BEACH AND UP AND DOWN THE HILLSIDES. I PUT IN A LOT OF STEPS- 15 TO 20,000 A DAY AND MY POLES LESSENED THE STRESS ON MY HIPS AND KNEES, SO I COULD STILL ENJOY THE EVENINGS FESTIVITIES.

  • Judy Cook says:

    I think that I would try the Nordic trails in Grande Prairie again only I would like to try these poles because I had an issue with my hands due to the grip I was using on the brand of poles that I currently have.

  • Amanda says:

    The Oregon Coast (my dream trip!)
    Every photo I see of the beautiful hikes near the coastline and in their beautiful forests leaves me breathless. These poles would help keep me upright ;)

  • Levon says:

    I’d use them on Wasootch! Is that where your picture is taken? Honestly I’d use them on several hikes. Love the blog.

  • karen choy says:

    I did that same hike in 2017 for the larches. I would need the poles for my upcoming first time to Abbot Hut in Lake O’Hara.

  • Paul Levett says:

    Would use the poles everywhere I walk, but especially along the Vedder Rotary Trail in Chilliwack

  • Great giveaway! I need these poles for an upcoming alpine hiking trip in Switzerland. :)

  • Meryn Corkery says:

    I would use them when I finally make it up to golden! It’s been a dream for awhile.

  • Joan says:

    I love these poles, I’ve relied on them while walking the Camino Frances and Hut to Hut in Wells Grey Park as well on many joyful jaunts in my community. This year I’m heading to Mexico and Nova Scotia where I hope to find some amazing trails. I lend my poles to family members so it would be awesome to have another set. Looking forward to reading your blog posts.

    Go Where the Poles take you!

  • Irma Shaw says:

    Hi, I found your website last night when I was looking for hikes around Scottsdale and Tucson, and thanks for the pictures and information. Then I found your hike on Mallorca and it looks ideal to use these poles. With your details, description and adjoining pictures, it may bump out the walking we are planning in Portugal along the Algarve in late March. These walking poles would be ideal and sounds like they would keep me walking longer and with more stability.

  • Sydney Sweitzer says:

    We plan to head to Waterton Lakes at least twice this year (it’s not a far drive!). The wildflowers should be amazing, and Waterton will need the visitors. We love the Snowshoe Trail at Waterton.

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