Nordic walking and Parkinson's

In this feature, physiotherapist Bhanu Ramaswamy explains how Nordic walking can help the symptoms of Parkinson’s.

Physiotherapist Bhanu Ramaswamy smiling
By Bhanu Ramaswamy
Parkinson's Specialist Physiotherapist

What is Nordic walking?

Nordic walking is a style of walking where you use a specially designed walking pole to help you move forwards. This means that you use your arms as well as your legs and, as the poles ‘propel’ you, they help you to walk faster and more steadily than you may do normally. When properly used, the poles take the weight off the knees and lower body joints, which can make you feel lighter on your feet.

What’s the technique?

You move in a similar way to ordinary walking, but swing your arms from your shoulder with your elbows straight. This is a bit like a soldier marching.

How does it help?

Walking in itself is great for your overall health, improving your body’s use of the heart and lungs, lowering cholesterol and blood pressure and helping blood sugar regulation. Nordic walking in particular can help you maintain a better posture and keep you more upright. At the same time, taking longer strides can gently stretch your limbs and keep your body rotated, which can help you loosen up and improve your coordination. If you feel that you tend to walk slower and take smaller steps, Nordic walking creates a steady beat to improve your pace. It can also make exercise fun and social when done in a group.

Getting started

Nordic walking is something that anyone can try and is suitable for all ages and abilities. Classes range from gentle walks to full-on workouts.

It’s not the same as other styles of walking, such as trekking or hill walking, and you may need some training to get the technique right. You may also need to buy some equipment, including Nordic walking poles, the right footwear and appropriate clothing. Instructors can supply the poles, or you can buy a pair for around £30.

Accessing classes

Generally speaking, you can try Nordic walking anywhere, such as a park or in the countryside. But it’s best that you get advice from a qualified instructor first. Many places offer a taster session to see if it’s right for you. You may then be able to join walking groups or practise yourself.

You can find local walks, instructors and classes all across the UK at the following organisations:

Nordic Walking UK

0333 12345 40

British Nordic Walking

01446 773 876