Nordic Walking for Cancer Wellness

Fresh Air and Exercise!

Announcing Nordic Walking for Wellness classes at the Cancer Wellness Center in Northbrook!

This new series of 4 sessions starting July 14 will teach progressive Nordic Walking techniques for participants whose surgery or treatment may have affected their ability to exercise. Read below for more program information.

Sessions will be customized based on activity level for the group participants. Warm-up, cool-down and stretching will be included in class sessions.

Link: Registration

Document: Program Description – Medical Information 

How Cancer may impact Walking

  • Increase the risk of falls due to decreased balance and chemo induced peripheral neuropathy
  • Decrease endurance and physical functioning
  • Decrease range of motion, especially areas affected by surgical treatments or lymphedema

Exercise Recommendations for Individuals with Cancer

(American Cancer Society)

  • Start slowly. Even if you can only do an activity for a few minutes a day it will help you. How often and how long you do a simple activity like walking can be increased slowly.
  • Try short periods of exercise with frequent rest breaks. For example, walk briskly for a few minutes, slow down, and walk briskly again, until you have done 30 minutes of brisk activity. You can divide the activity into three 10-minute sessions, if you need to. You’ll still get the benefit of the exercise.
  • Try to include physical activity that uses large muscle groups such as your thighs, abdomen (belly), chest, and back. Strength, flexibility, and aerobic fitness are all important parts of a good exercise program.
  • Try to include some exercises that will help you keep lean muscle mass and bone strength, like exercising with a resistance band or light weights.
  • You might want to include exercises that will increase your flexibility and keep the range of motion in your joints.
  • Always start with warm-up exercises for about 2 to 3 minutes. End your session with stretching or flexibility exercises.
  • Exercise as you are able. Don’t push yourself while you are in treatment. Listen to your body and rest when you need to.

Health Benefits of Nordic Walking

Nordic Walking engages your core muscles and provides for proper posture and balance during walking activities, especially when fatigue is a concern. Walking with poles can increase your walking confidence and strength, allowing you to walk safer and for longer distances at your own speed.

  • Engaging the upper body with walking poles uses up to 90% of your muscle mass verses only 70% used during regular walking.
  • Heart rate increases an average of 10-15% more than regular walking, with less perceived exertion.
  • Acts as a weight-bearing exercise, increases upper body strength and mobility, improves core stability and posture, and increases aerobic activity, even at slow speeds.

Nordic walking exerts beneficial effects on resting heart rate, blood pressure, exercise capacity, maximal oxygen consumption, and quality of life in patients with various diseases and can thus be recommended to a wide range of people as primary and secondary prevention. (Tschentscher et al. 2015)

Follow additional links to Nordic Walking for Cancer study abstracts.

Nordic Walking and Fall Prevention

The York Hospital Living Well Center performed a 6-week study of Nordic Walking’s benefits for Cancer Survivors pertaining to fall prevention, results indicated an improvement in both gait (17%) and balance (18%), risk of fall results showed a significant decrease for study participants.

The effects of walking poles on shoulder function in breast cancer survivors.

Breast cancer treatment often results in impaired shoulder function, in particular, decrements in muscular endurance and range of motion, which may lead to decreased quality of life.

This study suggests that using a walking pole exercise routine for 8 weeks significantly improved muscular endurance of the upper body, which would clearly be beneficial in helping breast cancer survivors perform activities of daily living and regain an independent lifestyle.

Stick Together: A Nordic Walking Group Intervention for Breast Cancer Survivors.

Over and above the general benefits for cardiorespiratory fitness, Nordic Walking particularly targets at the muscles of the upper extremities and shoulder. This may increase shoulder range of motion and lead to a reduction in functional limitations.

The aim of this study was to offer a Nordic Walking intervention to women after treatment for breast cancer and to investigate changes in subjective well-being and shoulder function. Results showed that after 10 weeks, patients’ vitality had improved, whereas perceived shoulder symptom severity and limitations in daily activities had decreased. Goniometric data indicated that range of motion (forward flexion, abduction, and external rotation) of the affected shoulder improved significantly within 10 weeks of training.

Results from this explorative study suggest that Nordic Walking is a feasible and potentially valuable tool in the rehabilitation of patients with breast cancer.

Nordic Walking as an Exercise Intervention to Reduce Pain in Women With Aromatase Inhibitor–Associated Arthralgia: A Feasibility Study

Women taking aromatase inhibitors as treatment for breast cancer commonly experience joint pain and stiffness (aromatase inhibitor–associated arthralgia [AIAA]), which can cause problems with adherence. There is evidence that exercise might be helpful, and Nordic walking could reduce joint pain compared to normal walking.

Results indicate there was no increased lymphedema and no long-term or serious injury. From baseline to study end point, overall activity levels increased and pain reduced in both the intervention and control groups.

Findings indicate that women with AIAA are prepared to take up Nordic walking, complete a six-week supervised course and maintain increased activity levels over a 12-week period with no adverse effects.

Exercise effects on HRV in cancer patients

The study evaluated the effects of physical exercise on heart rate variability (HRV) in cancer patients. 3 different groups were recruited: acute treatment, post treatment and acute treatment, no exercise. Exercise group patients received counselling for exercise and participated in a Nordic-Walking program.

Exercise enhances cardiac autonomic regulation of tumour patients during and after acute treatment. Because of the association of higher HRV-parameters and prolonged survival in cancer patients, improvement in autonomic control may be an important goal of exercise.


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