This term dates from about 1997, though an American firm claims to have been promoting the technique under a different name since the 1980s. However, it has only started to become at all widely known in the last couple of years and is fairly new in the UK. It is from a Finnish method of training cross-country skiers during the summer months. The idea is that you use poles to walk with an action much like that of skiing. This is said to increase upper arm movement, exercise the main muscle groups and burn more calories than walking by itself. Nordic walking has been taken up as a way for people to get slim and fit even if they’re never likely to strap on skis.
The new fitness craze of Nordic walking has given rise to a host of activity holidays dedicated to the sport. A cross between high-altitude power walking and cross-country skiing, Nordic skiers stride up mountains using a side-to-side rhythm that burns 20 per cent more calories than normal walking.
The Observer, 8 Aug. 2004
In the winter, cross-country skiing rules and the Finns seem to miss it so much in summer that they invented a new exercise, Nordic walking, which is walking with ski poles.
The Toronto Star, 1 Apr. 2004