An idea to teach and practice the Nordic Walking
In Italy, inactivity is a widespread issue. According to 2019 ISTAT data (published in 2020) 35.6% of the population doesn’t do any physical activity. In the Piedmont region of Northwest Italy, 38.2% of the inhabitants have insufficient levels of physical activity and 29% of the people are inactive. Physical inactivity levels are higher in elderly people, women and people with health problems.
We aimed to spread Nordic Walking as a specific type of walking that might be more suitable to these population groups. Nordic Walking is a technique inspired by cross-country skiing that makes the walk more intense, the intensity of the effort could be adjusted according to the speed of walking and the chosen path. Several Nordic Walking schools stand out for slight differences in the technique and poles.
Nordic Walking has the following benefits:
- Affects most of the muscles including those of torso and arms;
- Improves the posture both when stationary and on the move;
- Stimulates the motor coordination between the step and the poles thrust;
- Helps to keep the balance while walking thanks to the use of the sticks (you’ll go like a 4×4!);
- Helps to maintain a good state of physical fitness;
- According to scientific reviews, Nordic Walking could improve the health and well-being of people suffering from long-term conditions.
This project has seen a number of stakeholders work together. The Sport Medicine and the Health Promotion services of the Piedmont Local Health Authority (LHA) developed the program in collaboration with the UISP (a national sport promotion institution) and the Nordic Walking Andrate sport club in Turin province. Our work is informed by the Prevention Plan of the Piedmont Region, the Italian Health Promotion Network and the Italian Ministry of Health’s Physical Activity Recommendations. The works meets the objectives No. 3 (create active people) and No. 4 (create active systems) of the Global Action Plan on Physical Activity (GAPA).
Thanks to the LHA financial contribution, we ran a Nordic Walking course structured in four classes held by trained instructors in several municipalities within the area. Furthermore, we created the Campus del Cammino®, specific outdoor areas suitable for Nordic Walking, where once a week at set times trained instructors are available to:
- Explain the technique of this particular way of hiking;
- Lend the appropriate poles according to the build of the participants;
- Collect registrations and a modest fee which allows access to the Campus and covers expenditure and personal accident insurance.
In the province of Turin, four Campus del Cammino® are currently open and regularly frequented by approximately 150 people. Although, most of the people are occasional visitors attracted by trial lesson, days dedicated to physical activity and excursions in the Campus surrounding areas.
Campus del Cammino® is a new way of practicing physical activity in a controlled manner and it’s replicable in different places if certain conditions are met:
- An outdoor area with walking trails (parks, protected green areas, gardens)
- A sport club qualified to teach the Nordic Walking technique;
- An agreement with the Municipality or the local community of the area;
- A collaboration with the local health authorities and/or with doctors competent within this area;
- Population groups wishing to practice physical activity in a controlled manner (e.g. association of elder people, diabetics, breast-feeding women).
In our experience, the availability of qualified instructors, fixed locations and set times was crucial to offer the opportunity to practice Nordic Walking at a low cost and in a controlled manner to people who otherwise would not have sufficient motivation to exercise on their own.
Campuses give the chance to practice physical activity on a regular basis. Moreover participants are often stimulated to integrate this weekly session with other activities carried out independently.
A certificate of eligibility is required to take part to Nordic Walking lessons. Moreover, sports doctors asses eligibility of people with particular health conditions. Paths are regularly checked too for suitability.
On campuses you may also walk freely, do gymnastics (warm ups, stretching, balancing exercises), undergo motor tests to assess your current state of fitness, take part in activities related to the area (flora, fauna, historical sites, culinary and local traditions), socialize with the other participants.
Take home messages
- Nordic Walking is a beneficial physical activity for both healthy people and people with chronic diseases.
- Campus del Cammino® are outdoor locations in parts of Northwest Italy where you can practice Nordic Walking under supervision.
- Campus del Cammino® give the opportunity to discover a new way of exercise and realize the importance of the movement for the health and well-being.
Authors and affiliations
Dr. Maurizio Gottin
Centro Medico J Medical di Torino, Italy, & A.S.L. To4, Piemonte, Italy
The author has no relevant competing interests to declare.