Nordic walking and my COPD

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Nick Scudamore from London shared this amazing story with us……..

“I have lived with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) since childhood.  If you can imagine having a heavy chest cold every day of your life you will get the idea.  It would make you a little shy of exercise, wouldn’t it?  Why work up a sweat if you can’t breathe easily to start with?


During the summer of 2018 I chanced upon Martin Christie at a street fair in North London where he was promoting Nordic Walking as a form of exercise and recreation.   A week or so later I met him with a small group of walkers as he prepared us for a gentle training walk on Hampstead Heath.  The Heath is a large open area, famous throughout northwest London, a wide semi-managed green area of trees and fields and seasonal mud.  Plenty of hills, plenty of slopes, an exercising terrain that has both rough going and smooth walking in different areas.  Dogs, joggers and children abound.

At first I was slow and tentative.  I was easily exhausted.  But I quickly discovered that walking with the two poles actually gives you the power of a quadruped.  Your arms provide as much motive power as your legs.  So your upper body is slowly strengthened, just as your legs and lungs are.  You are upright, feeling your body working, but not in a muck sweat.  You can look around at the trees, admire the light, smell the plants, listen to the birdsong, even chat to your neighbour walkers.  (Nordic Walking is a lot more social than jogging eight miles while listening to a podcast on your headphones.)

Once Covid struck in early 2020 my careful GP emphasised that I was now classed as ‘extremely vulnerable’ and should limit going out of the house to an hour a day at most.  No shops, strictly limited socialising, etc, etc.  Walking on the Heath in groups was now prohibited for everyone.  So I decided to take my poles and walk the local streets.  My wife came with me.  She had noticed that I was getting a little stronger, was taking a little longer to get tired.  I gave her a set of poles for her birthday.  (She was very chuffed!)  So now we swung through the quiet streets side by side each day and even ventured onto the Heath’s nearer edges on milder days whenever there weren’t too many folk about.

Our teacher and guide, the ever-resourceful Martin, soon instituted new daily half-hour Zoom exercise sessions for his various Nordic Walking groups.  To my vast surprise I was coming to enjoy, even to look forward to, half an hour of moderate exercise each day – even when delivered through the rather contrived medium of a laptop screen.

Since last spring we’ve all been back Nordic Walking on the Heath again, always careful to be judiciously masked and socially distanced where appropriate.  In the last 20 months I have grown (relatively speaking) much stronger in body and in physical confidence.  I can now walk for an hour over uneven ground and only feel pleasantly tired at the end of the exertion.  With COPD I’ll never be able to join a serious powered walking group that can tramp over 30 miles of rough ground in a day and drink beer at the end of it.  But equally I know well that I can confidently recommend Nordic Walking as an activity to anyone at all and especially to anyone who feels themselves a little weakened by age or ill-health.

In sum: Nordic Walking strengthens the body, clears the mind, promotes friendships and even, at times, tickles the intellect.  It does not require a great range of expensive kit. And you can definitely enjoy a coffee and a biscuit (or a pint) at the end of a session if you are of a mind to… ”

Well said Nick! We could not have put that better ourselves! Thank you so much for sharing this and inspiring others.

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