Destinations Magazine

Hike In Austria The Finnish Way

By Linda
Nordic walking

photo : Pascal from Heidlberg, Germany

Hiking in Austria is a well-established activity. There are dedicated paths, trails and pubs – more usually known as hutte – where hikers and walkers can enjoy a feast of food and drink in the fresh alpine air. And in more recent times, a Finnish form of fitness walking has become popular in the Austrian hills.

Sauvakävely or Nordic Walking

Although walking with specially made poles has been around for a while in Scandinavian countries, it has only really become an international activity (since around 1997). Finland introduced it as a way of getting their less than energetic members of the population active. A Finnish company came up with a specially designed poles to make the whole process easier, more effective and lots more fun!

The origins of Nordic walking lie in the dry-land training of off-season skiers. The long pole thrusts and stretched out steps of ski striding, provides an excellent workout for all the body. Much better than ordinary hiking or walking, as it uses more of the entire body with greater intensity. It builds fitness in the chest, biceps, shoulders, abdominal, spine and other core muscles. But best of all – it does all this without the usual hip, knee, foot and back pain that come with jogging and walking.

Health Benefits

Besides the health benefits already described, hill bounding with proper poles has also been scientifically researched and found to be better than similar sports and exercise activities in the following ways:

  • 1 hour of Nordic walking burns between 350 and 400 kcal compared to jogging which manages a mere 155 – 200 kcal
  • increases energy consumption (burning the blubber) by around a whopping 46% more
  • increases heart rate without making the hiker breathless or tired
  • and there’s no need to walk any faster than you would ordinarily in order to get better results.

All things considered, it seems a far more appealing form of exercise than pumping iron in the gym or getting hot and sweaty on a circuit. And ladies particularly will appreciate it’s even better than swimming – you don’t have to get your hair wet!

How to Hike the Finnish Way

To learn how to use this ski-stride method of walking, it’s recommended that you get a few lessons from a properly qualified Nordic walking Instructor. A list of your local pole walking pals can be found by searching on the website of the International Walking Federation or if in Great Britain, you could try the British Nordic Walking Organisation.

There are a few important things to know about Nordic walking that it’s best to get right from the start if you want the best outcomes. These include:

  • getting the poles the right height. A rule of thumb is that you multiply your height in cms by 0.68, then round downwards to the nearest 5 cms
  • wearing the right sort of shoes – not boots – that are light, well aired (you’ll get smelly feet otherwise!), with very strong soles and which hug the heels snuggly whilst protecting the toes
  • getting the thrust of the poles correct – it’s a sort of backwards motion that needs to be properly explained by an INWA Instructor, but see the video below to get an idea of how it’s done.

Styria’s First Nordic Walking Centre

Set in the Murtal area – in case I forget to mention this later, that’s near Stadl an der Mur and the traditional rustic style all-season Chalet Lowonahill – is Styria’s first Nordic walking centre. At Krakautal, you can learn the skills of Nordic walking and enjoy the healthy benefits of a guided tour in this magnificent mountain region. Walks are organised for both summer and winter visitors, so you don’t have to wonder where you’ll wander for your first hillside adventure.

Guided walking tours offered by the centre include:

  • Kalvarienburg tour – a 4 kilometre canter from Krakendorf
  • Panaorama Round Walk – a 4.3 kilometre circular walk from Krakaubene
  • and the Etrach Round Walk – a 4.1 kilometre waltz with sticks from Krakauschatten

As autumn draws in, this is a wonderful way to get a healthy workout in the heavenly Austrian hills. Temperatures are mild and the scenery is stunning.

Chalet Lowonahill welcomes Nordic walkers at any time of year – now is the best time to book for your pre-ski break.


Chalet Lowonahill is an all-season, rustic style holiday home in Styria. It’s the ideal place for you to discover the delights of the 9 provinces of Austria. To find out more, simply click here.


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