Nordic Walking Pioneer Tom Rutlin Celebrates the 20th Anniversary of Exerstrider Fitness Walking Poles

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Nordic walking, or fitness walking with specially designed poles, is just beginning to gain attention in the U.S, despite the fact that it's already attracted an estimated 10 million walkers world-wide, and it's been among the hottest fitness trends in Europe for nearly a decade. America's own "father" of the Nordic walking movement has been promoting and walking the Nordic walking walk for more than 20 years. This fitness trend may soon get hot here in the U.S., but it's nothing new to the Nordic-American man who gave birth to the concept.

The 61 year old "father of Nordic walking", Tom Rutlin has been walking this "new" walk since 1985

There are more than 80 million fitness walkers in the U.S. alone, and I’ve never stopped believing that most of them will eventually embrace fitness walking with poles once they understand all the additional health and fitness benefits, as well as the motivation and fun it adds to ordinary walking -- and once it reaches its inevitable tipping point.

December marks the 20th anniversary of Exerstrider, the company that pioneered the activity which has come to be known as "Nordic walking." In the spring of 1985, avid runner, skier and former professional Nordic skiing instructor Tom Rutlin put a pair of rubber tips on a pair of poles and in doing so took the first step in giving birth to a new hybrid exercise form that combined the enjoyment, ease and convenience of walking with the total body fitness building benefits of “Nordic” (or as most Americans know it – “cross-country”) skiing. Three years later Rutlin’s company Exerstrider became the first to commercially introduce rubber tipped poles especially designed for fitness walking.

Rutlin’s simple idea allowed any fitness walker to, for the first time, simultaneously combine the simplicity, enjoyment and benefits of walking with total body exercise benefits very similar to those of Nordic skiing -- anywhere and any time they would otherwise just walk. The companies success has been building for two decades based more on an abundance of enthusiastic word-of-mouth promotion than by making media headlines.

Rutlin believed that since walking was the most popular exercise in the world, and since Nordic skiing had long been recognized by many experts as the best aerobic exercise in the world, he had hit upon something that had potential to greatly improve the health and fitness of any person who enjoyed walking. He also knew from the beginning that his first challenge might be to convince walkers who wanted to get the most out of every step they take that the best way to do just that was to start walking with specially designed poles and his easy-to-learn techniques. “Frankly, I never could have imagined that American fitness walkers and media would be so slow to embrace what so many Nordic ski-savvy Europeans have so enthusiastically embraced from the very beginning!” says Rutlin.

While more than two decades later an exercise which has come to be known as generically as “Nordic walking” is only beginning to make news in here the U.S., in Scandinavia and northern Europe where fitness walking with poles wasn’t introduced until nearly a decade later, Nordic walking has become one of the hottest fitness trends. Despite its sluggish start here in the U.S., the trend is gaining traction around the globe and Nordic walking now involves an estimated 10 million enthusiasts.

David Downer, author of Nordic Walking Step by Step says, “I just don’t understand why Americans aren’t celebrating and giving credit to one of their own. Nearly every American article I read on the subject of Nordic Walking credits the Finns or Scandinavia or a Finnish ski pole company! True to the British spirit of fair play, I just don't like injustice! The fact is that as a form of exercise in its own right, the activity of fitness walking using specially designed poles was pioneered in the U.S. by Tom Rutlin. By now people should know that it is an American who got there first, a decade before the Finns. So why aren’t Americans out there fiercely defending and giving credit to one of your own? It’s seems a strangely un-American thing to do!”

Wellness expert Dr. Andrew Weil, the editors of Prevention, Walking magazines and others have offered praise for Rutlin’s tireless pioneering walking pole work here in the U.S., and he has become widely recognized within the growing global Nordic walking community as the “father” of the Nordic walking movement. Despite the challenges he still faces here in the U.S., Rutlin’s passion for the activity has kept him enthusiastically promoting this total body version of walking and personally “walking the walk” for more than a third of his 61 years. He says he’s never faltered in his belief that the same total body exercise that has kept him very fit, lean and muscular for more than 23 years will soon be doing the same for other baby boomers -- as well as their parents, children and grandchildren.

“My work has already changed the lives of so many walkers of all ages and abilities here in the U.S. and around the globe, and their tremendous gratitude and enthusiasm are what have primarily sustained me so far” says Rutlin. “There are more than 80 million fitness walkers in the U.S. alone, and I’ve never stopped believing that most of them will eventually embrace fitness walking with poles once they understand all the additional health and fitness benefits, as well as the motivation and fun it adds to ordinary walking -- and once it reaches its inevitable tipping point.” Rutlin also believes that the simplicity, accessibility, total body effectiveness and low cost of the activity make it an exercise form well positioned for growth in even the leanest economic times.

Ever the optimist, Rutlin remains convinced that Nordic walking is poised to become a hot “new” fitness trend here in the U.S. where he started it all more than twenty years ago! In the meantime, he’s off to San Antonio on December 4-5 to present for the 2008 International Council on Active Aging Conference, and then on to the Netherlands in early 2009 to give instruction to master trainers of the Dutch Nordic Sports Organization.

For more information visit: http://www.exerstrider.com

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