Improve your posture, balance and your motivation to get outdoors.

There may be no better time to consider adding a pair of Nordic walking poles to your walk, particularly with so many gyms and exercise programs closed or cancelled. Luckily, walking is still one of the few safe and recommended forms of physical activity to enjoy while keeping a safe distance apart.   In case you’re wondering what Nordic walking, aka urban poling, is all about and how it benefits someone with Parkinson’s, we’ve got you covered.  Nordic walking is simply walking with specialized poles while using a technique similar to cross country skiing with your arms.  Although the activity is very popular in places like Sweden and Canada for people of all ages and physical levels, it also has many proven and remarkable benefits for those with Parkinson’s.  But don’t take our word for it, the proof is in the research and backed by 19 independent studies listed on PubMed.

According to a study by Schenkman et al. (2018) exercising at 80 to 85% of your maximum heart rate provides people in the early stages of Parkinson’s with optimal exercise benefits.  Adding a pair of Nordic walking poles can turn walking into a full body workout and a high intensity form of exercise. Let’s not forget about the added bonus of burning 20 to 46% more calories than just regular walking.  Plus, it is a fun, motivating way to entice you to get outdoors either on your own or with a partner or friend. Just please remember to keep your distance, of course!

For those in the later stages of Parkinson’s primarily concerned with balance, walking with poles may improve stability especially when using the Activator technique which provides more support to both sides of the body.   With this technique, the poles are maintained in a vertical position and placed in front of the body versus the more commonly used technique where poles are kept on a diagonal.  Using walking poles for balance, generally boosts confidence levels and allows you to walk farther while standing taller as the poles promote a more upright posture.   Finally, poles help to normalize your walking as it simulates a normal walking pattern of opposite arm and leg.  Remember to only use high quality Nordic walking poles with a secure locking system and wide ledge handles that offer greater weight-bearing capacity, particularly when using them to improve stability while walking.

Be sure to check with your therapist first to see if Nordic walking poles are right for you especially if you are using them for balance or ask her/him about starting a poling class or group in your area.  Discover how Harry McMurtry, diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s, walked 500 miles from New York to Toronto using Activator poles (a type of Nordic walking pole) to promote awareness and raise funds for Parkinson’s disease.

A true triumph and a real game changer!

For more info on Nordic walking/urban poling research, videos on how to properly perform the two walking techniques – Urban poling for fitness and Activator for balance and rehab and training programs please click on the link below:

Mandy Shintani is an occupational therapist with a Master’s degree in Gerontology. Like all therapists, she discovered that one of the biggest challenges is convincing clients to use devices for greater independence and safety. Early on she realized that assistive devices can have both benefits and limitations, and unfortunately, too often these devices are associated with the negative stigma of disability, dependency and the effects of aging. Mandy’s goal became to design a better alternative for clients.

Mandy firmly believes that OTs can and should be involved in the process of device design, as it allows them to address the issues they feel are integral to their client’s safety and well being. By sharing her story, Mandy hopes that other OTs will be inspired by her journey to become more involved with device design with her company Urban Poling Inc.

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