Building confidence and stamina one stride at a time

Do you need a walking lesson?

According to Nordic walking instructor, Esti Grinpas, supported walking with poles builds confidence, stability and burns 46 percent more calories than ordinary walking, while using 90 percent of the body’s skeletal muscles.

“We were born to walk,” said the Switzerland native, and 35-year Kauai resident. “My goal is to get people walking together.”

Nordic walking began as cross-training for Finnish competitive cross-country skiers in the 30s. The coordinated stride utilizing poles propels the body forward. Unlike hiking poles with metal tips for gaining purchase in the Earth, Nordic poles have a rubber tip for stability on sidewalks. The poles have a hand-strap that pivots, which allows for loosening and tightening the grasp with each step.

“Nordic walking is like four-wheel drive,” Grinpas said. “You don’t just use your legs, you use your arms too; the poles are extensions of your arms.”

She recalls the first time she saw Nordic walking on a trip home to Switzerland.

“I thought what are those funny poles? Then I found a pair my parents had, tried them and fell in love.”

Grinpas teaches the technique in Lihue and Kapaa. Her next four-week class begins in February.

“I work with people from the very athletic to those with disabilities,” she said. “Nordic walking is especially good for anyone with insecurity about balance.”

Many of her students are recovering from knee, hip or joint pain. She had a student who claimed she couldn’t walk more than 10 minutes and by the last class was walking three miles.

“Nordic walking allows you to walk four times longer,” she said.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services Fall Prevention Consortium, the No. 1 way elders can lower the risk of a fall is through regular exercise.

Noreen Steinmetz, Ohana Home Health physical therapist, is a current student of Grinpas and passionate about empowering the elderly.

“Nordic walking elevates walking to total body fitness by incorporating use of trunk, arm and leg muscles,” she said. “This is especially good for us as we age.”

Steinmetz described body posture as flexed forward at birth and the tendency for us to return to a forward flexion as we age.

“If we maintain upper body strength, our spine is much happier,” she said. “Nordic walking elongates the spine, which is imperative to avoid that flexed forward spine as we age. It’s also good for those who work at a computer, because it builds wrist strength, shoulder and back strength,” she said.

Health benefits aside, Grinpas’ ultimate goal is fun. The social aspect and beauty of the island are motivation, too.

In addition to upcoming classes, Grinpas has expanded her vision beyond basic instruction to develop a walking club that meets weekly in both Lihue and Kapaa. All that’s required is comfortable walking shoes and Nordic walking poles. Poles are supplied for class and the walking club.


To register, call Esti, 822-4599


Pam Woolway is Community Outreach Coordinator for Ohana Home Health. Visit for more healthful tips and resources.


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