A NEW STUDY exhibits the health benefits of walking with Nordic poles..
(photo credit: MALCOLM JARVIS/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
Nordic walking sticks, which are known for helping walkers burn more calories than ordinary walking, have been proven by an Israeli research team to alleviate widespread chronic pain in the hips, knees and lower back of older people.
The study, whose lead author was Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center retired internal medicine and nephrology specialist Dr. Donald Silverberg, was recently published in the open-access International Journal of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation.
Walking with Nordic poles has been a very popular recreational sport in Scandinavia and other parts of Europe, and in recent years has caught on in Israel as well. It involves the use of two poles made of aluminum, or graphite or carbon fiber whose length is adjusted to be at the level of the navel or elbow. The two poles are gripped with the left and right hands and directed backward at an angle of about 30 to 40 degrees.
They are pushed backwards as one walks, while swinging the arms like a pendulum as if reaching out to shake someone’s hand, the authors explained. When pushed downward, the poles thrust the user upward and forward, forcing him or her to straighten and speed up, because one uses a longer step and a faster gait with Nordic walking than with a normal gait.
The poles can be purchases at sports-equipment shops and through Nordic walking clubs. They require the use of the upper body including the muscles of the arms, shoulders, neck, chest, abdomen and entire back for pushing the poles backward, as opposed to ordinary walking that uses only the lower limbs.
The result is a strengthening of these upper body muscles.
This helps straighten the spine, thus improving posture, which helps alleviate physical pain and stiffness.
In addition, since the user has to push down on the poles, the upper body supports part of the body weight so that the spine, hips and legs are exposed to a much lower weight and thus to much lower physical stress, which helps reduce pain.
They tested 100 volunteers aged 60 and over (52 women and 48 men) who had a history of low-back, hip or knee pain for at least six months while walking. Until now, the medical literature has barely studied and not proven that Nordic walking improves such pain.
They were assessed for pain before treatment and how far they were able to walk without pain or with a degree of pain from light to severe. No one had been advised by a doctor before to use Nordic poles. After using the poles for 12 weeks, their conditions were assessed. A total of 91 of them continued for the 12 weeks; nine dropped out because they felt they were not receiving sufficient pain relief with them.
Their mean walking distance each time was about half a kilometer. The Nordic walkers showed a marked, rapid and persistent reduction in pain from Nordic walking and they walked as much as three or four times farther than before.
While the results are still preliminary, Silverberg and colleagues concluded that Nordic walking “holds promise in the effective treatment of chronic back, hip and knee pain when walking, both in degree of pain relief and in distance walked. It is a relatively simple exercise to do that is easy to learn and perform and is safe, convenient, inexpensive, and can be a pleasant adjunct to the therapy for these conditions,” they concluded.