HARWICH— Walking is a great way to explore Cape Cod and increase your fitness level, but have you ever noticed that your arms have nothing to do with it? They hang sadly while your legs play. Something must be done!
Enter the Cape Cod Nordic Walking club, a newly formed Facebook group that surprisingly meets in the real world. Call them stick buggies, because that’s the big difference here. Nordic walkers use poles, which brings your upper body into the exercise party.
The merry band of walkers meet twice a week in the natural areas around Cape Cod. Times and locations are posted on their Facebook group page. New friends have made friends, new techniques have been learned, and after the ride, band founder Carla Fogaren treats everyone to a chamomile iced tea.
One recent morning, the club gathered at the Bell’s Neck Conservation Lands for a walk in one of the most beautiful places on Cape Cod. Fogaren, a summer resident of Harwich, kindly took the time to chat as the group stretched.
Fogaren also has a home in Hingham and said she was inspired by past outings with the South Shore Nordic Walking band.
“Connecting with people in nature is beautiful,” she said. “I was spending the whole summer in Cape Town for the first time, and I thought, maybe I could get five or six people to join me, so I’m not doing this alone.”
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The idea caught on quickly, and now the group has 136 members.
“I met so many interesting people,” Fogaren said. “Some of them come out because their spouse has died. Some come out because they have vertigo issues and they feel a lot more comfortable with that. And we don’t leave anyone behind, so there’s always someone watching over you.”
For people who know cross-country skiing, getting into Nordic walking will probably be fairly easy. According to American Nordic Walking Associationthe activity originated in Finland and was a way for cross-country skiers to train during the snowless months.
But that can be a bit tricky for those new to the world of poles. As a newcomer to Nordic walking, Celia Oppedisano from South Dennis shared her thoughts on the technique before heading out to Bell’s Neck.
“If you think about it too much, you might trip yourself up,” she said. “I just talk to people and leave, and it’s only natural.”
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Nordic walking poles are similar to cross country ski poles, but have different grips and come in adjustable and fixed length styles. Group members said they were able to buy cheap poles in Cape Town from Ocean State Job Lot and Walmart. They are also available online.
Oppedisano has participated in several group outings and is having a blast.
“It’s a really lovely bunch of people who want to get out in nature and move their bodies,” she said. “I encourage everyone to give it a try.”
Beyond making friends and enjoying the natural beauty, the health benefits of Nordic walking are impressive. According to a Harvard Medical School article“Nordic walking combines cardiovascular exercise with vigorous muscle training for the shoulders, arms, core and legs.”
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The article cites observations from Massachusetts General Hospital cardiologist Dr. Aaron Baggish, who spent a year working in Switzerland, where people are pretty Nordic walking geeks.
Here’s what Baggish told the folks at Harvard: “When you walk without poles, you activate the muscles below the waist. When you add Nordic poles, you also activate all the muscles in your upper body,” he said. declared. “You’re engaging 80% to 90% of your muscle, up from 50%, which provides a substantial calorie-burning benefit.”
Carla Fogaren, founder of the Cape Cod Nordic Walking group, sums it up: “If you can walk, you can Nordic walk.