Nordic walking is a fitness technique that involves the use of poles to propel the walker along, so as to train the upper body. The history of Nordic walking dates back to the 1930s, when skiers in Finland realised that the technique can be an excellent training aid for skiing during off season, when there was no snow.

Many studies have explored the advantages and potential of Nordic walking as a form of exercise for patients with various health conditions. 

1. Back disorders

Nordic walking has been shown to benefit individuals with chronic lower back pain and back disorders. Barbara Pellegrini and six other researchers demonstrated in a study published in 2015 how the use of poles during uphill walking can decrease the contraction of the erector spinae muscle.

The increased contraction of erector spinae, commonly associated with conventional uphill walking, could lead to muscle overuse and lower back problems. Therefore, Nordic walking may be considered as a suitable form of exercise for people who experience chronic lower back pain and back disorders. 

2. Breast cancer

In a 2016 study, Andrea Di Blasio and several other researchers examined the effects of 10 weeks of walking and Nordic walking on the upper limb circumferences of breast cancer survivors. The study showed that Nordic walking practice can be an effective exercise against upper limb lymphoedema, a potential side effect of surgery and radiation therapy.

In addition, even when the proper Nordic walking technique alone is practiced for 10 weeks, breast cancer survivors can achieve reductions in the upper limb circumferences homolateral to the surgery site. In contrast, walking alone did not show the same outcome.

This can be explained by the fact that unlike Nordic walking, conventional walking lacks active use of the upper limb as a propulsive means. 

3. Depression

Physical activity and exercise is a common routine that is practiced to improve the physical and psychological well-being of the elderly. A 2015 study explored the effectiveness of Nordic walking as an exercise intervention for older patients diagnosed with depression.

Compared to the general walking group, participants in the Nordic walking group showed significant changes in depression and sleep disturbance. Furthermore, the study results also showed positive effects of Nordic walking on skeletal muscle mass, which may be attributed to the use of poles that encourages the free movement of the upper body. 

4. Parkinson’s disease

In addition to the above findings, the benefits of Nordic walking have been established in patients with movement disorders. For instance, findings from a recent study by Thibault Warlop and a team of researchers in Belgium suggest that Nordic walking can be a powerful way to manage gait disorders in patients with Parkinson’s Disease.

5. Heart failure

A study published last year by researchers from the University of Ottawa Heart Institute in Canada demonstrated that Nordic walking is a promising alternative for patients with heart failure. This is due to the fact that Nordic walking was found to be superior to standard cardiac rehabilitation care in improving functional capacity and other important outcomes, including self-reported physical activity and fewer depressive symptoms.

Findings across many studies have shown that proper utilisation of the Nordic walking technique has been proven to facilitate and improve different health conditions. Healthcare professionals can play a central role in promoting safe, proper and affordable Nordic walking to the community due to its many benefits for health and fitness. MIMS

Read more:
Stair climbing associated with several health benefits
Healthcare professionals: Start walking more to get healthier
Brisk walking beats jogging in improving glucose control in pre-diabetes