Urban Poling wants patients to put MJFF exercise guidelines into action

Nordic walking now included as suggested activity by MJFF

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by Mary Chapman |

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A woman is shown walking in this illustration.

Updated exercise guidelines for those with Parkinson’s disease released by The Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) now include Nordic pole walking as a suggested aerobic activity to help mitigate symptoms and improve everyday life.

The exercise, a Finnish-derived low-impact total body walk, is also known as urban poling, which is also the name of the Toronto-based company that distributes the “Activator Poles” that can be used with such walks.

According to Urban Poling, using the poles can improve gait, increase the user’s base of support, and provide extra stability to reduce the risk of a fall. Depending on how much the disease has progressed, the equipment can also be used in seated exercises, according to a company press release.

“Getting outdoors with Urban poles is a great way to get your core engaged and make sure that you’re exercising,” said Denise Coley, a Parkinson’s patient and foundation council member, who is mentioned in a webinar about the new 72-page MJFF guide.

The poles have been adopted as a therapy and fitness tool by more than 5,000 graduates of the company’s training programs, according to an Urban Poling webpage. Graduates are said to include healthcare professionals and fitness instructors.

“Studies show that exercise, which should include aerobic, strengthening, flexibility and balance components, can help to reduce severity of symptoms and can also delay the progression of the disease. This is both motivating and empowering for those living with Parkinson’s! An activity such as Urban Poling (Nordic walking) is an easy and accessible way to tick off all the boxes, putting guidelines into action,” the company states in the press release.

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Nordic pole walking involves applying force to the poles with each stride to gain a faster and more intense gait. Because Nordic walkers use more of their body and with greater intensity, the benefits can exceed those achieved with normal walking.

Nordic walking is recommended as a type of aerobic exercise in the section, “What, Exactly, Should I Do?” along with hiking, jogging, martial arts, and other physical activities. Benefits of aerobic exercise can include improved mood, memory, digestion, and overall health and well-being.

The guide, “Make Your Move: Exercise for Brain Health and Life with Parkinson’s,” was written by Parkinson’s and exercise experts with input from members of the Parkinson’s community. The publication offers practical tools and tips for exercise during every stage of life with Parkinson’s.

Research shows regular physical exercise can stave off Parkinson’s onset, slow the condition’s progression, and mitigate motor symptoms along with nonmotor problems, such as depression.

“Studies have shown that there is a definite correlation between exercise and its beneficial impact on the management of Parkinson’s disease, and a 2024 pilot study from Yale University indicates that high-intensity exercise can induce brain-protective effects that have the potential to not just slow down, but possibly reverse, the neurodegeneration associated with Parkinson’s disease,” the company states. “The key is in finding the type of physical activity that most appeals to the individual to ensure continuity and progression over time.”

“Exercise is one of the best things you can do for yourself, whether you live with Parkinson’s or love someone who does,” a Parkinson’s community member states in the press release. “The earlier you start, the better. But it’s never too late or too little — any effort makes a difference.”