Many of my Fibromyalgia patients have multiple complaints of musculoskeletal pain, especially back and neck pain, that can make even routine daily activities seem daunting. I just read an encouraging article by a group of Swedish researchers who found that high intensity Nordic walking for 20 minutes twice a week “significantly boosted function without any exacerbation of pain”. The only difference between Nordic walking and “regular” walking is the use of walking sticks/hiking poles. When you use walking sticks to ambulate, you tend to take longer strides, use less energy, and involve your upper body more.
Summary of the study: 67 women diagnosed with Fibromyalgia where placed in to two groups:
Group 1: low intensity walking without walking sticks only once a week for 20 minutes.
Group 2: Nordic walking (used two walking sticks/hiking poles). This group started each session with low intensity walking followed by a series of 2 minute intervals of higher intensity walking including both flat and hilly surfaces for a total of 20 minutes 2 times per week.
According to the researchers “after 15 weeks, the women in the Nordic walking group experienced improved function, decreased activity limitation, and improvements in fatigue levels compared with the control group”.
This is promising on many levels. You have often heard me preach the importance of daily exercise and walking is something that we can all do, anywhere we are at, without the use of expensive gear or equipement. A quick search for hiking poles on Amazon.com showed multiple pairs for about $25, not a big investment.
The results of this study are preliminary and we cannot make vast, sweeping judgements. However, I will be recommending this program to my Fibromyalgia patients as an alternative to steady state walking to get them to exercise and hopefully improve their quality of life. Good luck!
Ed Deboo, PT,