IT is the latest fitness workout to grab the headlines and I can attest that if it hadn’t been for Nordic walking poles I wouldn’t have made it through the last 5k of my non-stop 100k walk this summer. They were exactly what I needed to take the pressure off my feet when my heels and toes had taken a bashing, though I can’t say I knew exactly how to use the poles properly.

Nordic walking has of course been around for centuries but it’s increasing popularity now is due to the fact that regular users see fast improvements in health and fitness while enjoying the benefits of exercise in the fresh air.

I went along to a session at Westminster Lodge in St Albans, run by Everyone Active and Nordic Walking UK.

Having been kitted out with poles and hand protectors we headed off to Verulamium Park where we went through a variety of stretches incorporating the poles into the routine, which included twists with poles above our heads, standing on one leg and moving the other in various directions while leaning on poles as well as other limbering postures.

Then we set off uphill in the driving rain dragging our poles behind us to get used to their weight and slowly we incorporated them into our stride. As we got used to them we were instructed to keep our arms as straight as possible, to use our stomach muscles to keep our torso straight and shoulders relaxed while we got into a steady rhythm with our legs and arms.

About halfway up we were told to hold our poles and carry on walking so we could see the difference between using the poles and ordinary walking.

It was quite noticeable how much more effort was required when not using the poles. The poles are not meant as a crutch though, for me it was more like they gave momentum to my stride and engaged my upper body in the walk while also encouraging me not to slouch.

Next we had to imagine we were squeezing lemons beneath our feet to roll the foot through from heel to toe which really complemented the lengthened and measured stride we were able to achieve with the poles. Then we split into two groups, those who wanted a leisurely stroll or a brisk walk, which meant everyone could exercise at their own pace.

It was a good 45-minute taster and I would advise anyone wanting to really reap the benefits to do a full course. Our instructor Martin Christie runs the classes in Hertfordshire and in north London including a night walk on Hampstead Heath with head torches.

Nordic Walking UK operates countrywide and lists the following benefits:

• Nordic walking works your upper and lower body. Exercises 90 per cent of your body’s muscles (95 per cent if you’re talking to the friends in the class!) and tones your legs, buttocks, chest, shoulders and particularly the backs of your arms.

• Nordic walking is very effective at engaging the abdominal and pelvic floor muscles that provide core stability. It is an ideal way to take Pilates outdoors.

• Nordic walking burns 20-40 per cent more calories than ordinary walking and feels even easier than walking – but only if it’s done right.

• Nordic walking is an ideal exercise for older adults to maintain functional capacity and help to lead an active life longer.

• Nordic walking is a perfect activity to combine the mental health benefits of effective exercise with those of being outdoors.

I spoke to physiotherapist Anne Stevens from Capital Physiotherapy in Bushey about the benefits of the exercise. She told me: “It’s a great cardiovascular workout and helps with posture and working all the muscles and joints.

“In Denmark where I’m from it’s called pole walking and everyone does it, even when just heading out for a quick walk. Because you include the arms and your torso when you walk with poles you burn a lot more calories, and strengthen much more than just your legs.”

Details: Nordic Walking UK: