Nordic Walking Holds Physical Therapy Advantages

Nordic walking, or urban poling as some people call it, looks a lot like cross country skiing but without the skis or snow.

The concept started in Europe to train off-season athletes, but it is now being used in many places across the United States for physical therapy gain.

“When you use the poles, you work more of your core and your upper body so it’s eliminating that added weight that would normally sit in your knees or hips,” said Lutheran SeniorLife Rehabilitation Manager for Outpatient Therapy and Home Health, Christine Namey.

Something incredibly important for patients who suffer from the pain of arthritis.

Similarly, the added points of contact the poles make with the ground offer advantages for older adults concerned with accidental falls.

“As we age, we naturally lose skeletal muscle and this is often a major concern when it comes to maintaining independence and physical function,” Namey said.

Nordic walking can further assist in this area by helping to regain muscle mass and improve the overall day-to-day performance of older adults.

“You really incorporate your full body when using the poles, which helps improve balance, posture, walking speed and endurance, among many other things,” Namey said.

It’s also great when working with patients who may suffer from conditions such as Parkinson’s disease.

“When people have Parkinson’s disease, they do a lot of shuffling,” Namey said. “The poles help them stand upright and take longer steps than if they were to use a walker.”

Likewise, the poles help chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or (COPD) patients with improved exercise tolerance and walking farther distances.

Proper training and supervision are necessary before gaining maximum benefit, though.

Lutheran SeniorLife’s therapists are qualified to educate individuals on different techniques according to their existing needs and skillset.

“So, if a patient is interested or we think they would benefit, we work one-on-one to train them how to do it,” Namey said.

“The more options we have for patients, whether it be trainings, knowledge or different tools, allows us to meet the needs of more individuals,” Namey added.

“It’s great to show the public that we have so many options.”

If you or someone you love are interested in learning more about urban poling, please contact Lutheran SeniorLife’s outpatient therapy office at (724) 452-3492.