According to the World Health Organization (WHO) Physical inactivity is now identified as the fourth leading risk factor for global mortality. Physical inactivity levels are rising in many countries with major implications for the prevalence of noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) and the general health of the population worldwide.
Nordic Walking is one of the best fitness modalities for achieving overall health, increased stamina, sustainable weight loss, improved muscle tone, and importantly – enjoyment of long term participation.
In addition to the considerable general health and fitness benefits that can be achieved by Nordic Walking – it is also an effective rehabilitation measure that can be individually adapted to assist with injury-recovery, acute and chronic conditions including arthritis and other joint conditions, diabetes, and cardiovascular-related and neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, and stroke.
WEIGHT LOSS BENEFITS: Nordic Walking is an ideal activity choice for sustainable weight loss. The utilisation of all major muscle groups results in greater calorie consumption and less perceived effort by the walker. Also, because Nordic Walking can be social, uses simple equipment and is done outside, it is an activity that people who struggle with gym-type environments often enjoy doing.
CHRONIC DISEASE MANAGEMENT: Nordic Walking is being used worldwide in the treatment of chronic conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, neuromuscular and cardiovascular-related diseases. Importantly, Nordic Walking can be adapted to cater for patient’s individual needs and geared to achieve specific outcomes.
REHABILITATION: Increasingly Nordic Walking is being prescribed by podiatrists, physiotherapists, chiropractors, Pilates therapists and other healthcare professionals as a highly effective rehabilitation therapy. Nordic Walking as a rehabilitation measure is:
- Effective in all stages of rehabilitation – from acute to chronic
- Provides increased stability, security and confidence with walking
- Enables functional mobility without loading of full body weight
- Rebuilds aerobic fitness base faster
- Improves integration and coordination of muscles
- Increases muscle flexibility and joint mobility (hip, knee, ankle, spine, shoulder)
- Double poling technique used as progression from crutches
- Lighter, more maneuverable and sports-like equipment
- Enjoyable and motivating leading to improved program completion
For more information about Nordic Walking as a rehabilitation measure, go to the Nordic Academy
BENEFITS OF NORDIC WALKING FOR PEOPLE WITH PARKINSON’S DISEASE” THE 3 B’S
- Promotes BIG: With regular practice Nordic Walking will reinforce many of the principles of LSVT Big (increased amplitude of limb and body movement – ‘Bigness’) – and help maintain good walking posture, good arm swing, step length and walking speed.
- Improves BALANCE: Improved stability and balance due to 4-points of contact with the ground resulting in increased walking confidence and stronger more natural walking performance.
- Improves BRAIN function:
- Neurological protection: any form of exercise demands increased activity in the brain and nervous system. Neurological protection is when we try to maintain the strength and function of the nervous system. Working physically hard (exercising at around 80% of predicted maximum heart rate) has been shown to be one of the best protectors for brain health and protection against degeneration.
- Neuroplasticity: The brain is able to change, remodel and rewire itself. Building new pathways depends on many factors, but one of the most effective ways is by repetition of movements. Nordic Walking can really assist – for example in trying to increase arm swing in normal walking. Using NW poles requires walkers to swing their arms more than their automatic, often minimal swing. A 1-km walk will result in around 500 arm swings on each side.
- Neurorestoration: as a result of the reduction in dopamine-producing cells during PD progression, dopamine-receiving cells also stop working. Exercise has been shown to reactivate the receiving cells, resulting in the brain becoming more efficient at using the dopamine it is producing itself as well as the therapeutic dopamine.
To learn more about the benefits of Nordic Walking for people with Parkinson’s Disease and other neurological conditions go to Connect Neuro Physiotherapy
A useful handout on Walking for people with Parkinson’s Diseasse and the benefits of Nordic Walking is available from the Wexner Medical Center at the Ohio State University
For a comprehensive list of scientific studies on the health benefits of Nordic Walking – including in relation to specific health conditions go to The Evidence