I’m always on the lookout for types of exercise that the people I work with, those with neurological conditions, might find particularly useful. It has to be something accessible, enjoyable and effective in helping specific problems caused by neurological issues. Amongst fatigue, mobility challenges and transport issues, going that extra mile to participate in exercise that is questionable in its effects in the Neuro community, sometimes just isn’t feasible.
So, it seems that there is a strong candidate in our midst…in the form of Nordic Walking! Originally invented as a summer time alternative for the keenest of Norway’s cross country skiers, the form of walking is now a common recreational sport worldwide.
Nordic Walking uses specially designed poles, which you plant on the ground at a 45̊ angle. This specialised technique results in you using the muscles of your arms and core during walking, making Nordic Walking a form of whole body exercise. The poles help to propel the walker along – therefore your body works harder, but the support given by the poles makes it feel easier.
Nordic Walking ticks a lot of boxes! It aims to get you outside, socialising, using your legs, arms, core and balance mechanisms. It’s been shown to promote good posture and improve gait speed, strengthen the back and abdominal muscles and foster better balance during walking.
Not only are these common features often faced by people living with a neurological condition, but studies show that over time, Nordic Walking can specifically improve postural stability and stride length in people with Parkinson’s Disease. On top of that it is great for your heart and lungs and burns up to 46% more calories than normal walking, so is brilliant if you’re trying to lose weight.
The absolute bonus of Nordic Walking in neuro conditions is that by involving your arms in the walking, your core is automatically used more. The core is vital for controlled and coordinated movements of the arms and legs, and in turn extremely important for balance.
And with less effort required, Nordic Walking may allow you to go further, challenge your balance for longer and work your core better. All this leads to fitness and more efficient, less effortful walking.
We’ve certainly become fans! There are Nordic Walking groups and instructors all over the country. It’s an excellent candidate in the race to find an all rounder on the exercise front, for people with neurological issues.
Our other front runners are swimming, adapted or traditional cycling, Pilates and exercise in the water such as walking and aqua aerobics. We’d love to know if you’ve had a go at any of these and what your other favourites are. People are always on the lookout for new ideas for fitness and sport to motivate, energise and enjoy!
For details about Nordic Walking and how to find an instructor or group near you visit: