Category Archives: Health Benefits

Department of Misinformation V

A segment filmed in South Florida on “Nordic pole walking” and broadcast on the “Healthcast” portion of the news on WHDH, Boston’s Channel 7, implies that not only special poles but also particular shoes are required. The implication is that rocker-sole Chung Shi shoes are needed. Some people like the core-muscle boost that this type of shoe is designed to provide. Others don’t. You can see the video and/or read the intro on-line and judge for yourself.

I do applaud the inclusion of a woman recuperating from hip-replacement surgery who found that she could get in her cardio exercise by Nordic Walking. From her accent, she comes from the WHDH viewing area.

Poles are a Weapon in the Fight Against Diabetes

Two newspaper reports today reminded me why I work out in general and Nordic Walk in particular — and both involved diabetes, an inconvenient condition at the very least and far too often also a portal to worse diseases. The “Fit” section of the Boulder Daily Camera assembled some statistics about diabetes from the Los Angeles Times, the American Diabetes Association and Archimedes, Inc. According to these sources, over the next 30 years, diabetes in America will lead to 35 million heart attacks, 13 million strokes, 8 million people requiring eye surgery or going blind, 6 million episodes of kidney failure and 66 million “early deaths.” The estimated cost of diabetes in that period is quoted as $6.6 trillion.

At the same time, a report in the New York Times and other print and broadcast media revealed serious doubts about Avandia, currently the second most-prescribed drug for Type 2 diabetes, because”an analysis of clinical trials concluded that the drug might significantly increase the risk of heart attacks” — up to 43 percent, according to the Times report. This news has been covered widely, and although it will probably be forgotten in a few days, it just affirms the importance of grabbing those poles getting out and Nordic Walking to prevent diabetes in the first place — or at least mitigate its severity.

I don’t pretend that this is a health blog, but exercising and losing weight — through Nordic Walking and other means — are a way to keep you and me from contracting diabetes and becoming part of those statistics.

New Pole Designed for (Much) Older Nordic Walkers

Use it or lose it. We all have heard the phrase. This is especially true for older people who slow down and become increasingly less active — either due to illness, injury or just the natural aging process — and therefore lose mobility, strength and independence. Nordic Walking is no total fountain of youth, but it does show real promise in enabling the elderly to keep on using it so that they won’t lose it.

Peggy Buchanan, IDEA Health & Fitness 1997 Fitness Instructor of the Year and spokesperson on older adult fitness, conducted the first eight-week pilot study with 13 subjects averaging 87 years of age. This group, small to be sure but nevertheless enlightening and encouraging, traded in their canes and walkers for Exerstrider fitness walking poles. She observed, “People with canes and walkers tend to see themselves as ‘invalids,’ but the same people with walking poles more often feel like ‘athletes.’ Those who traded in both walkers and canes immediately began walking with a more upright posture and their gate pattern went from a ‘shuffle’ to a more normal walking gait.”

She continued, “The psychological benefits may have been just as important as the physical benefits.”Using walking poles can aid in providing balance, confidence and relief for painful joints, and at the same time they can also help build upper-body muscles and aid in preventing bone loss, as walking becomes a total-body, weight-bearing activity.” As a result, Nordic Walkers have an increased self-image and also because Nordic Walking is fun and also feels secure, pole users tend to remain more active, which in turn makes them stronger and more agile — and all that jazz.

To address the needs of this market Exerstrider ‘s new Activator Medisport Edition is the company’s first adjustable-length pole since it was established in 1988. This pole utilizes the same type of “snap button/hole length adjustment” mechanism commonly used on canes and walkers. Physical therapists are familiar with it, and people with limited land strength can manage it too. Other features familiar to Exerstrider users are the strapless/safety ergonomic grips and boot-shaped Cushiongrip rubber caps (plus an optional bell-shaped balance tip for people with balance issues).

Exerstrider was a pioneer in bringing fitness walking with poles to North America, and it is again ont he forefront of meeting the Nordic Walking needs of a totally different demographic group.

South Beach Diet Website Misses Nordic Walking

The far-reach South Beach Diet “Daily Dish,” a free E-letter, published the following question:

“I just started exercising indoors this winter. Walking aside, are there other good exercises for beginners that I can do outside now that spring is here?— Isabel J., Seattle, WA”

The answer suggested “activities like swimming, biking, hiking, and even gardening are great alternatives — and they’re ideal for any fitness level,” plus playing Frisbee with the dog, doubles tennis or impromptu game of tag for family fun.

The answer concluded with the advice, “In addition to outdoor cardio activities, remember to strengthen and stretch your body when indoors. Core exercises (moves that target your abdomen, lower back, pelvis, and hips) are especially good, since the core muscles are vital to helping you maintain good posture, balance, and stability. Core training also reduces the risk of injury, which is the key to being able to enjoy physical activity throughout your life.”

That was good as far as it went, but I wanted to shout into my computer screen: Nordic Walking not only makes walking more interesting, but it is an outdoor activity that is effective in every way suggested cardio endurance, core-strengthening, posture, balance, stability and reduction of the risk of injury.

Michgan Senior Expo to Feature Free Nordic Walking

Some years ago, I visited Traverse City, MI, for a winter assignment. I went skiing at several nearby downhill ski areas and cross-country skiing on the splendid Vasa Trail. I heard also wonderful things about Nordic skiing at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore (rightt), so I went there too. It was March, however, so the snow was gone. I went for a poleless walk on the gorgeous sand beach of a national recreation holding that I had never heard of before. I wasn’t the only one strolling there. Now, with the growing popularity of Nordic Walking, the lakeshore becomes prime real estate for Nordic Walkers.

The town’s upcoming Senior Expo, called “Ideas For Life,” will include free Nordic Walking clinics. It will take place on Wednesday, June 6, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Traverse City Civic Center; not just locals but also visitors are also welcome. Pete Edwards (left), Nordic Walking coach and owner and founder of, will conduct the clinics. Seniors not only fine Nordic Walking to be good exercise, but the poles are reassuring for anyone with balance and stability issues, including those with multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s. also distributes the Swix VIP Nordic Walking pole.

Like many Nordic Walking advocates, Edwards likes to remind people that “over six million Europeans of all ages and fitness levels are Nordic Walking every day. It is surprising that more Americans haven’t embraced this amazing new fitness activity that turbo charges the normal walking regimen.” With Michigan-based Edwards spreading the Nordic Walking gospel in his state, and especially at events like Traverse City’s “Ideas for Life” expo, I’ll bet more and more Nordic Walkers will be striding across the Sleeping Bear Dunes’ sandy shore

Edwards relates the story of “one lady [who] called during the fall of 2004 and asked if the poles would help improve her balance problems stemming from an inner ear issue. Edwards told her he wasn’t sure, but did share with her several impressive success stories from folks with knee, hip and/or back problems. By using the correct length poles she was able to navigate even the roughest terrain with balance and security provided by the poles. She has been successfully using Swix VIP Nordic Walking Poles for over two years.”

He also relates a story from a previous Nordic Walking clinic in Traverse City, held at The Fitness Center, where he met Michelle Honer. who had signed up to participate in one of his Ski Walking Classes. “When she walked up the handicap ramp prior to the class with her cane it was apparent that she had some balance issues, and she informed her classmates that she had MS,” Edwards relates. “Her first Ski Walk was only a few blocks down and back. Within several weeks, she was covering about two miles in one hour. For seven prior years Michelle had ridden an electric scooter in the Traverse City MS Walk. The last couple years Michelle has Ski Walked the 5K (3.1 miles). Local newspapers and TV stations have covered her remarkable story.

“My special Nordic Walking poles have allowed me to walk taller, faster, further and with much more stability than with my cane. My walking poles’ one-piece design is so much better than my old adjustable poles that broke unexpectedly at an extremely inconvenient time,” Honer has been quoted as saying.

Florida’s "Highway to Health" Paved by Nordic Walkers

A recent story in the the Naples News, covered 15 to 20 Nordic Walkers with an almost 70-year age range (20 to 88, according to reporter Kelly Farrell) and a great variety in levels of fitness who joined a Nordic Walking class. Certified instructors Heidi Klimt and Dr. Klaus Schwanbeck led the class. Their route paralleled the beach, and Klimt told Farrell that the class renamed the Naples beach, “the Highway to Health.”

Schwanbeck, identified as being a former Olympic coach though I don’t know in what sport, told Farrell, “Usually the doctor will say ‘You need to work out.’ You sigh, ‘Okay, I have to work out.’ But this is fun to get outdoors and easy because almost anyone can walk.” None of this is news to Nordic Walking enthusiasts, but the programs available in Naples are impressive.

Dr. Schwanbeck, president of Orlando-based Nordic Pole Walking USA, and Dr. Allen Weiss, president of Naples Community Hospital, introduced Nordic Walking to the area about a year ago and began certifying instructors at NCH. Dr. Schwanbeck offers free beginning classes four days a week. The hospital has plugged Nordic Walking into its aggressive wellness program. Additionally, Klimt leads classes three days a week. In addition to free beginner classes, low-cost classes/group walks are also available. It is estimated that there are about 400 Nordic Walkers and 20 certified instructors in the Naples area. The paper reported that “poles can be purchased at the beach.”

Pretty impressive!

Fitness Program of Last Resort, Redux

In previous posts, I linked to a Wall Street Journal feature and then to a Salt Lake City television news segment on two women with serious weight issues (one with health problems too) who had taken up Nordic Walking — and started instructing. To me, these women are no less than inspirational. The WSJ doesn’t allow for non-subscribers to read an entire article without paying for it, but the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which reprinted the article, is more generous. Go to to read about these two remarkable women.

The Fitness Program of Last Resort?

I’ve occasionally added images of competive Nordic Walkers and people who have remained committed to being active and staying fit. Their dedication is certainly inspiring. But inspiring in another way are two Utah women who were featured on KSL-TV, Channel 5 in Salt Lake City

Reporter Samantha Hayes said that these two women (right), who “‘admit to being ‘out of shape” are leading the way in a new exercise. One weighs more than 300 pounds while the other has type-two diabetes. But those challenges, along with a sense of humor, helped them discover something called Nordic Walking.

“This is a total body workout, although at first Nordic Walking is a sport that looks like something is missing. Donna Mirabile and Elizabeth Foote are used to friendly jabs. They know their workout may look a little odd, but it does work. And with chronic medical problems, that’s something both of them are excited about.”

Elizabeth Foote, one of the two Nordic Walkers, told KSL, “The first time I did this I went out three times. My blood sugar dropped 20 points. So that got my attention. The fact my knees didn’t hurt got my attention. I could breathe and talk while I did this and that got my attention.”

Reporter Hayes continued, “The key to the workout is the walking stick, engineered by a company in Germany, the Leki has a rubber foot on the end that helps the women balance and reduces impact. Nordic Walking also burns more calories. At 340 pounds, it’s about the only exercise Donna Mirabile says she can do comfortably. She has lost weight and seen other health benefits.”

Donna Mirabile, the other plus-size Nordic Walker, said, “My last blood pressure was 120 over 60; cholesterol went from 256 to 143.”

Hayes reported that Foote and Mirabile were trained by Leki ane they, in turn have been trained to instruct Nordic Walking themselves. The station evidently saw the same Wall Street Journal piece featuring these two women that I referenced here two days ago.

“Mirabile and Foote say it’s exercising for the un-fit. And it turns out that’s the biggest selling point!” was the reporter’s conclusion. Click on the link to the segment to see for yourself what fabulous examples they are setting.