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Walking their way to health

By Peng Yining | China Daily | Updated: 2013-04-05 01:32

The Institute of Sport Science also designed a pole exercise for Chinese walkers — stretching the body with the help of walking poles — which is unique to China.

Now the exercise has been introduced to all Nordic walking clubs in Beijing, for warming up and recovery before and after walking. In order to create more interactions between walkers, the exercise has some movements that need two people to cooperate, such as two people holding opposite ends of the poles and help each other stretch muscles in the arms and back.

The exercise is widely welcomed among Chinese walkers. As people usually do it with fast electronic music, some of walkers said it is also kind of "park dancing", only more athletic.

On a tour organized by the China Nordic Walking Association, Chinese walkers go to walk in Finland, where the sport was invented, twice a year. In 2012, 58 walkers hiked across the central park of Helsinki.

Xiao Gang, head of the association, said Nordic walking was introduced to China six years after it was created, but now it has been developing faster than it does in the Europe.

"Based on the larger population, the target group is bigger in China," he said. "Most importantly, the sense of healthy lifestyle is growing stronger in our country."

Xiao has also seen a business opportunity in the growing recreation. He said the price of a pair of poles range from 168 yuan ($27) to more than 900 yuan, which most urban residents could afford.

"Being healthy is more important than anything," said Hu Shuqin, a 58-year-old walker who spent 490 yuan on a pair of lightweight poles made of carbon fiber.

"I would spend much more on medication if I haven't been working out," she said. "Nordic walking makes my life healthier and happier."

At the beginning Hu said she was a little embarrassed walking with poles in public, but after a while she got completely comfortable.

"I tell jokes and even sing for people walking with me," she said. "I have tried jogging, swimming, playing tai chi after I retried, but none of them are as good as walking."

Chen Zhengyi, 81, walks five kilometers every day in past two years. "I thought I would be using walking poles in my 80s, now I am, but in an athletic way," he said. "I don't feel like 80 at all."

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