Nordic walking has increased in popularity across the UK. A question from many of our walkers is “Will it help my osteoporosis or joint pain?”
From research studies as well as personal reports we have seen how Nordic Walking can benefit people with these conditions.
What is Nordic Walking?
Nordic Walking, derived from cross country skiing, uses specially designed poles to enhance your “walk”.
There have been multiple studies that show Nordic Walking is beneficial for upper body strength, aerobic capacity, increased walking speed and it can also help to decrease blood pressure. The use of poles whilst walking increases stability, strength and balance. As a result, pressure on the joints is eased and the risk of falls is reduced.
Benefits of Nordic Walking for Joint Pain
The good news for those with painful conditions such as arthritis or osteoporosis is that Nordic Walking can protect your joints. The poles we use help you to balance and provide stability while also ensuring a safe, low impact workout.
Here are six key ways in which Nordic Walking can help you:
Exercising in a group provides invaluable support and motivation. This makes continuation more likely and consistent gentle activity is the key to longer-term success. Most people with osteoporosis or arthritis are advised to do more exercise rather than less and by using a positive, encouraging approach you will be more likely to enjoy the exercises and want to continue. Well led groups are also useful for improving exercise knowledge and confidence.
Practising Nordic Walking regularly increases cardiovascular fitness and can help to decrease blood pressure. Gradually one can walk further in distance and time and increase speed too.
Weight loss can be challenging, especially if you suffer from arthritis and yet it’s a really important part of managing pain by relieving pressure on the joints. With good technique Nordic Walking can increase the number of calories burned by up to 46% compared to normal walking. This is due to increased work by the upper body and increased speed of walking. However, it usually doesn’t feel like hard work!
Pushing down and back on the poles increases effort from the upper body and core and so builds strength in the back, shoulders, chest, arms and abdomen. As a weight-bearing yet low impact exercise Nordic Walking safely promotes bone strength too.
Pushing down and back on the poles and strengthening the upper body improves posture.
Physical activity and exercise are important in the holistic management of the symptoms of arthritis and osteoporosis and that includes pain. Nordic Walking may be helpful in pain management of back, hip and knee joints by relieving pressure in those areas.
Whilst more research is needed to show it is an effective treatment for chronic pain, Nordic Walking has been shown to not worsen pain. Therefore, there is little to lose and possibly much to gain from trying this safe, enjoyable and easy to learn activity.
Nordic Walking can be considered as a safe and accessible form of aerobic exercise across all ages including the older adult. It can help to improve cardiovascular outcomes, muscle strength, balance and quality of life.
We would love to help you ease your joint pain and enjoy gentle exercise again!
Author: Emma Webb, GP and INWA Nordic Walking Leader at Nordic4, MBChB MRCGP Outdoor First Aid qualification, Fully enhanced Nordic4kids DBS, Fully insured
Research papers –
National guidelines –
NHS website –