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Fibromyalgia and Nordic Walking

The National Fibromyalgia Association recommends walking and especially nordic walking. Nordic walking appears to be even better than normal walking. One study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) included about 60 women with fibromyalgia found that those who used poles to walk at a moderate-to-high intensity pace twice a week for 15 weeks improved their functioning more than those who walked without poles at a lower intensity. The poles help with stability, which is important for people with fibro who have a six times higher fall rate than other people their age.

Nordic Walking intervention allow people with fibromyalgia to walk outdoors without avoiding hills and increasing the fall risk. People with fibromyalgia who walk with Nordic walking poles may experience greater fitness gains than those walking without Nordic walking poles.

Nordic Walking poles vary from the regular trekking poles and walking technique in nordic walking is different than just walking with trekking poles or hiking sticks. A study by Arthritis Research & Therapy on Nordic Walking determined that Nordic Walking offers patients a safe and effective means of regaining functionality and physical fitness. Using nordic walking poles burns more calories and has other benefits that regular walking doesn’t offer.

For people with joint injuries in their lower bodies or lower back, walking with poles can help absorb some of the landing impact with each step, particularly when going downhill. The poles help keep the body upright with better posture and more symmetrical, and help with improving balance.

Research by The Cooper Institute in Dallas shows that Nordic walking burns about 20% more calories and uses more oxygen than just walking – without making you feel you’re working harder. And a study of fibromyalgia patients found that Nordic walking helped improve physical function more than a lower-intensity walking program.

For people with fibromyalgia, exercise (or even simple movement), is important to help reduce symptoms, but for many, exercise seems impossible and can result in more pain. 

Arthritis foundation ‘Why Try Nordic Walking?’ by Sean Kelley explains that Nordic walking burns more calories and has other benefits that regular walking doesn’t offer. And here’s the good news for people with arthritis: The poles used in Nordic Walking help with balance and stability and can make walking easier while still providing a great workout.

Benefits of Nordic Walking 

Choosing & Using Trekking Poles

The cost of entry-level nordic walking poles starts around $70 and can go up to $250. Nordic walking poles should be sized to fit your stride and height – your elbows should generally be at about 90 degrees when you hold the pole tips by your toes, although that may vary for comfort. Adjustable poles for different terrains and comfort are available. “Good poles should have a comfortable and easy-to-fit hand straps, and poles have a metal spike on the bottom – to be used in dirt or snow if needed – that can be covered with a rubber ‘paw’ to be used on asphalt,” Hand straps may help people with arthritis in their hands,

You can use different types of walking movements, such as speeding up into a gliding motion or even into a walking run. The poles can help you up and down hills with more support and control, and give you a more “interesting and challenging” workout.

Arthritis Research & Therapy explains that persons with fibromyalgia can enjoy the same improvements in strength, flexibility, aerobic capacity and perhaps postural control as can healthy persons. Symptom flares are commonly exacerbated, however, by exercise that is not modified for fibromyalgia. Specifically, aerobic activities that involve fast cycling, running, jumping, quick turns and certain dance moves may result in symptom flares, as can higher intensity exercise compared with lower intensity exercise.

Nordic walking can be a ‘start low and go slow’ aerobic exercise program that is community based, of low cost, and does not require a high degree of specialized or supervision. The exercise should provide significant fitness improvements without inducing a symptom flare. Ideally, this intervention would improve not only fatigue, sleep, mood/distress and quality of life, but also pain.

Nordic Walking small group classes and private training sessions

Jacqueline with Fitness & Function is an ANWA certified Nordic Walking instructor and provides Nordic Walking clinics for small groups and individuals. Nordic walking pole rental is included and poles will be sanitized. Participants can try a variety of different poles and thus try before you buy your own set. Training sessions also include agility drills, balance and flexibility exercises.

Contact Fitness & Function to schedule Nordic walking class or training session or call 503-267-1030.

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