Nordic Walk your way to better brain health, balance, gait, posture and happiness!
“If you do one thing, walk!” says Kristen Pratt, occupational therapist and Nordic Walking instructor, and Board of Governors member for Parkinson’s ACT.
And better still, why not TURBO CHARGE your walk to receive more benefits by learning to Nordic Walk!
While there is lots of research on the powerful benefits of Nordic Walking for people with Parkinson’s, Kristen has taught thousands of people to Nordic Walk and sees the benefits firsthand.
Keep moving and get puffing!
Exercise is an important part of healthy living for everyone; however, for people with Parkinson’s, exercise is not only healthy, but critical to maintaining balance, mobility and daily living activities, plus it also has a valuable neuroprotective effect.
Research shows that for people with Parkinson’s, exercise can improve gait, balance, tremor, flexibility, grip strength and motor coordination, and slow the progression and reduce the symptoms of Parkinson’s.
What is Nordic Walking?
“It’s not just walking with sticks,” says Kristen, “and it’s not hiking!”
Nordic Walking uses specially designed poles (not hiking poles) and looks a lot like crosscountry skiing. The poles enable walkers to harness the muscles and power of their upper body – back, shoulders, arms and core – to propel them along. This doubles the number of skeletal muscles being used and strengthened while walking.
Nordic Walking helps people walk more steadily, faster, taller and with a longer stride. It also helps alleviate back and neck pain and improves posture.
When the correct technique is mastered, Nordic Walking takes weight and strain off the walker’s feet, knees, hips and lower back, which can create the feeling of being light on one’s feet. Nordic Walking makes it much easier to get a good cardiac workout without the need to walk at fast speeds and with lower perceived levels of exertion.
Benefits of Nordic Walking
Nordic Walking benefits people with Parkinson’s because the poles provide stability, enabling you to stride out more confidently and keep you more upright. At the same time, taking longer strides can gently stretch limbs and rotate the spine, which can help you loosen up and improve coordination.
For some people, Parkinson’s can lead to slow walking with smaller steps or shuffling. Nordic Walking creates a steady rhythm and beat to help improve pace, plus the bigger arm swing results in longer strides.
Nordic Walking is considered by many as the ‘total package’ in terms of exercise because, if done regularly, it:
- Promotes and sustains BIG movements of arms and legs
- Improves stability and BALANCE leading to improved walking confidence and stronger, more natural walking performance
- Improves and protects BRAIN function. A simple walking regime, involving moderate to heavy puffing, stimulates the powerful neuroplastic effects of brain-derived neurotrophic factor which helps the brain develop new connections
- Improves MOOD. Exercising outdoors is proven to reduce stress, anxiety and depression and improve sleep. Time spent in nature also improves working memory, cognitive flexibility, and attentional-control tasks.
Top Tip! Learn to Nordic Walk with an experienced Nordic Walking instructor
Nordic Walking is more technical than people initially appreciate. If you don’t learn the correct technique, you are unlikely to experience the benefits and could injure yourself.
A qualified and experienced instructor can assist with technique, ensure you have poles that are suitable for your needs (wrist straps or ergonomic handles) and set at the correct height (taking into account shoulder range of movement, stride length and any physical constraints or injuries).
Nordic Walking instructors with allied health backgrounds such as exercise physiology, physiotherapy and occupational therapy will have a deeper understanding of Parkinson’s and how best to assist you in becoming a safe and proficient Nordic Walker.