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Nordic walking for healthy hearts

03.01.2006

Can Nordic walking offer cardiovascular benefits for older people? That's what a group of MSC Rehabilitation Science students have been finding out through a project led by Dr Raija Kuisma from the School of Health Professions.

A keen Nordic walker and instructor herself, Dr Kuisma says Nordic walking was first used for summer training by Finnish cross-country skiers in the 1930s. Re-emerging in 1997 as fitness walking it's now a rapidly growing sport in mainland Europe and is gradually gaining popularity in the UK.

Dr Kuisma actively promotes Nordic walking in the local community and, together with her team, she'll be demonstrating its benefits on the BBC1 Country File programme on 5 February. Presenter of the programme, Diane Louise Jordan, best known for her work on Blue Peter, was keen to try out the benefits of the unusual sport.

Diane Louise Jordan, Wai Ming Loh and Dr Raija Kuisma

Presenter Diane Louise Jordan, student Wai Ming Loh and Dr Raija Kuisma

Dr Kuisma explained: "Nordic walking is like skiing without skis - you use special walking poles to engage the arms and upper body in the walking activity. This makes walking more effective as a training method without increasing speed."

"This form of walking is especially relevant for older people who, due to balance and joint problems, and low fitness levels, are often afraid to take up vigorous exercise."

The student research showed that Nordic walking raises heart rates by about 13 per cent and burns 25 per cent more calories than normal walking at the same speed. Current studies are investigating its effects on stresses on lower limb joints, spinal mobility and shoulder muscle tension.

 

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Dr Raija Kuisma Nordic walking

Dr Raija Kuisma Nordic walking