Social prescribing and Nordic Walking
Social prescribing enables GPs, nurses and other primary care professionals to refer people to a range of local, non-clinical services to help address the needs of people:
- With one or more long-term conditions.
- Who need support with their mental health.
- Who are lonely or isolated.
- Who have complex social needs which affect their wellbeing.
Social prescribing can apply to a wide range of activities that can support these individuals.
Why is Nordic Walking suitable for social prescribing?
Nordic Walking is an activity well recognised as having many benefits for physical and mental health, backed up by a body of international research. Many people take up Nordic Walking because a health condition or injury means that they can no longer pursue their favourite fitness activities or because their change in circumstances mean that taking up physical activity has a new appeal.
Nordic Walking for long-term conditions
Nordic Walking is a popular way for people with long-term conditions to gain or maintain a level of activity that will help them manage their health. General health benefits of Nordic Walking, that everyone can benefit from, include:
- Significant increase in oxygen consumption by 20% compared to normal walking, with increased calorie expenditure and heart rate compared to normal walking.
- Increase in walking distance and speed by 30%.
- Improvement in upper body strength, cardiovascular endurance and flexibility.
- Improvement in core stability and strength, spinal mobility and posture.
Research also shows that Nordic Walking brings specific benefits to people with long-term conditions and those recovering from illness, injuries and operations, for example:
- People living with Parkinson’s find that Nordic Walking helps them with stability, improves their stride length, positively challenges their co-ordination, and improves neuroplasticity.
- People with arthritis benefit from a form of activity that allows their weight to be borne through four limbs instead of two, reducing strain on affected joints.
- The enhanced calorie burn of Nordic Walking over ordinary walking is beneficial for anyone who needs to lose weight.
- Diabetics and pre-diabetics benefit from improved blood sugar control (regardless of any weight loss).
- Nordic Walking makes activity accessible to people recovering after hip or knee replacements.
- Nordic Walking is beneficial for improving common breast cancer symptoms including upper body and core strength, lymphedema, physical fitness and the perception of swelling and pain.
Nordic Walking for improving mental health and reducing isolation
Nordic Walking is a very sociable activity with most Nordic Walkers joining regular Nordic Walking groups and many developing new social networks and lasting friendships.
As an activity that is very accessible, it makes the known mental health benefits of physical activity available to all. Specific research into Nordic Walking shows that it has a positive effect on:
- Sleep disorders,
- Mood, and
As an outdoor activity, of course, Nordic Walking also gives people a taste of “ecotherapy”, recognised by the charity Mind as a clinically valid treatment for mental distress.
Nordic Walking: an accessible solution for social prescribing
Nordic Walking is a welcoming and sociable activity. Instructors are able to manage mixed-ability groups to ensure that no “newbies” ever feel left behind.
There are British Nordic Walking instructors throughout the UK offering a wide range of classes and group walks through voluntary and community projects or privately for a locally competitive price.
The fact that Nordic Walking has a low perceived rate of exertion – which means Nordic Walkers actually work harder than they feels as though they are – makes it attractive to even the most exercise-averse.
To Nordic Walk:
- You need no special clothing, just comfortable garments and trainers or walking shoes – although it helps to bear in mind weather conditions!
- You do not need to buy expensive equipment – your instructor can lend you the specially designed poles at each walk and, when you want to buy your own, there is a range of options on the market.
- You should learn the proper Nordic Walking technique from a qualified instructor as this will ensure you get the full benefits.
In short, the flexibility of Nordic Walking and its proven track record in helping individuals improve their health and wellbeing in many ways makes it ideal for anyone, especially those with multiple health conditions, to become more active. If you can walk, you can Nordic Walk.