Nordic walking is a fun effective fitness and rehabilitation activity. Nordic walking is proving to be beneficial to a wide range of neurological conditions e.g. Parkinson Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Spinal Cord Injury, and Stroke to name a few.
Nordic Walking (NW) is an “intensification” of normal walking with the use of specialized poles. The poles are held behind the body at a 45 degree angle to the ground, this enables propulsion from a push off using the upper limbs. The recruitment of the upper body simultaneously recruits the core muscles as well. The technique established by the International Nordic Walking Association (INWA), focuses on a coordinated gait pattern, with attention to arm swing, trunk rotation, stride length, and heel strike while maintaining an upright posture (INWA, 2008).
The aim of Nordic walking is to develop the correct postural muscles, balance and coordination required to produce a “normal” walking pattern. Our clients are reporting not only the immediate benefits they feel from going Nordic walking but also how it has reflected an improvement in their everyday walking without the poles in their home and community setting.
Some of the benefits to be gained by Nordic Walking are;
– Total body work out – incorporating arms, trunk and legs.
– Increased balance – with 4 points of contact
– Lower perceived exertion – you work harder without knowing it!
– 40% more calories burnt
– Increased coordination – use of right and left hemispheres in brain
– Improved posture
– Decreased stress on joints
Research into NW has shown an significant increase in oxygen consumption by 20%, including increased calorie expenditure and heart rate, however perceived exertion did not change with the increase in cardiovascular expenditure (Church et al., 2002). Walking distance and speed have also been shown to be increased with NW by 38% (Oakley et al., 2008).
Baatile et al (2000) published one of the first research papers on the effects of NW on individuals with Parkinson’s disease. They performed supervised NW for 8 weeks, three times a week for one hour. The results showed significant increases in quality of life with the PDQ39 and the UPDRS. Van Eijkeren et al (2008) had 19 Parkinson Disease subjects perform 6 weeks of NW twice a week for an hour. The results showed an increase in the 10m Walk Test, the Timed Up and Go and the PDQ-39 quality of life measure.
Clinically meaningful increases in dynamic balance and confidence in an incomplete Spinal Cord Injury were recorded, after only six weeks of NW. NW can be used as a gait rehabilitation tool to help improve aspects of community ambulation. NW can be performed on any outdoor surface (Schiffer et al., 2009), therefore encouraging exposure to outdoor environmental demands that are prominent with community ambulation.
NW provides an accessible physical recreational activity for those with either; an altered gait pattern, for example that seen in early onset of Parkinson Disease with a reduced arm swing, loss of trunk rotation and reduction in stride length. People with balance impairments, decreased confidence walking outside and weakness of either upper or lower body will also benefit. It is an effective and safe form of physical activity for all ages and abilities, easy to learn and fun to do.
To gain the maximum potential from Nordic walking it is important that the initial steps are taught by a certified Nordic Walking Instructor. It takes approximately 3-4 one hour sessions to become competent with the technique. For further details please contact Gilly Davy – Neurological Physiotherapist at Advance Rehab Centre