As Kristen Pratt speeds past people during her daily walks, the two questions she hears the most are: “Have you forgotten your skis?” or “Are we expecting snow?”.
The questions seem reasonable when you see her walk past with long walking poles in her hands.
Ms Pratt is the founder of Capital Nordic Walking, teaching thousands of Canberrans the benefits of nordic walking.
A former competitive runner, Ms Pratt is on the path to get people of all ages to improve their health while having fun, including those with serious illnesses and the elderly.
While living in Switzerland in 2011, she tried nordic walking and was impressed that she could achieve heart rate levels that were similar to running.
“Because it is so relatively new in Australia, people don’t realise how effective a workout it is,” Ms Pratt shared with Region Media. “I have taught over a thousand people in Canberra since I started six years ago and we can’t keep up with the demand of people wanting to be taught.
“It is a great activity for elite athletes because it uses 90 per cent of your body’s muscles. You are activating your back, your shoulders, your triceps, and your core.
“I just turned 60 and I can get my heart rate up to 160 in a 100-metres by using the poles.
“The workload is distributed all across your body. I nordic walked the half-marathon in the running festival last year and finished before a lot of runners.”
It is believed nordic walking was designed in the 1930s to keep Scandinavian skiers fit as part of their summer training regime but Ms Pratt said it has benefits for people from all walks of life.
As well as individual coaching, Capital Nordic Walking provides five free group walks per week to Canberrans who struggle to move easily and safely and who are often isolated because they can’t get out and about.
People with all ages and fitness levels come together for a “talking, walking workout” before finishing up with a coffee.
“A lot of the people we work with are often older and frailer and they are too scared to get out and walk on their own,” Ms Pratt said. “It can be a vicious cycle because they are losing their fitness and they are socially isolated.
“But the poles give them the stability and they feel safe. I can get up to 50 people turn up for the walks because they are connecting with others and are not housebound. It turns into quite a social group.
“My background is in occupational therapy, the thing I love is that it is so adaptable and it is also good for people who struggle with Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis and painful joints.
“The camaraderie gives people the motivation to make exercise a habit, reduce stress and their risk of chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. We see the life-changing benefits of Nordic walking every day.”
Ms Pratt was joined by dozens of other Canberra nordic walkers and Finland Embassy’s deputy head of mission Ms Katja Karppinenas as they walked through Woden shopping centre on Friday afternoon (9 August) to demonstrate the benefits of nordic walking.
To hear more about nordic walking and how to get involved, send an email to Capital Nordic Walking via firstname.lastname@example.org