Parkinson's Pole Series - Part III: Walking Drills

6 Drills to Incorporate on your Daily Walk to Improve Arm Swing and Decrease Shuffling 

Spring has sprung and the season of fundraising walks is upon us! 

Personally, walking is one of my favorite things to do. My husband, Matt, and I have always used our nightly walks to explore, relax,  and recharge.

Being able to walk is something our body craves. It's a powerful way to improve circulation, digestion, restoration, prevent disease and reduce stress. However, it's often a love-hate relationship with my clients. While they want nothing more than to be able to walk smoothly and safely, sometimes their body has something else in mind.

Sound familiar?

This is where I love to introduce walking poles into the mix. 

Nordic walking, as I mentioned in Part 1 of this series, has numerous benefits and is not a concept I came up with on my own. However, once I started incorporating pole walking drills into treatment sessions, I started seeing some incredible results (in a very short period of time, I must add!).

Quick hitters of the benefits I see:

  • Improved arm swing - to the point that family, friends, and colleagues compliment them on how much they've noticed!
  • Increased stamina - clients are able to walk 3-5 times longer with less fatigue.
  • Boosted confidence - clients are no longer scared of clipping a toe, tripping, or having their leg give out mid-stride.
  • Eliminates shuffling - clients re-train their brains to take consistent, powerful, long strides. 

Real Results

I recently started recording before and after videos of my clients to help illustrate (to them, mostly!) the power of exercise and especially a pole walking program. Here's a great illustration of how much your arm-swing can improve after just 30 days of consistent pole walking. 

Pretty awesome, right??

Honestly, he started seeing (and his family and colleagues started noticing) improvement in 2 weeks. This really illustrates how quickly your brain can respond when you give it the right tools to work with.

Are you ready to see your Pole Walking Drills? 

Quick disclaimer: If you're just starting out or have any issues with balance, stamina, or shuffling, please don't head out on your own. Make sure you have supervision. They can also help cue you on your form, posture, and give you encouragement while you walk.

How to Use These Exercises Effectively

  1. Watch carefully - Each video shows the pattern in regular speed and then slow motion so you can really get a good idea of how to coordinate your arms, legs, and poles.
  2. Do them daily - Start with a comfortable pace and distance. Each day, gradually increase your distance, focusing on good form and posture. 
  3. Start with the basic pattern (video 1 - Regular Walking) - Once you're consistent, progress to the following videos.
  4. Don't give up! - If it's not challenging you, it ain't changing you. These can be tough to coordinate but keep at it!
  5. Monitor Your Progress - Have someone take a quick video of you walking before you start. Try to be consistent for 30 days and take another video. You'll likely be surprised by the result!

Video #1: Regular Stride

Starting Position: Stand up tall and hold onto the poles with the pole tips behind you. Your arms should be by your sides with your elbows straight.

The Pattern: Step forward with your left leg and swing your right arm forward simultaneously, dragging the pole tip (not lifting it) along the ground. Then step forward with your right leg and swing your left arm forward, dragging the pole tip again. 

Each Step: Make sure you have the Pattern down. Press the pole tips firmly into the ground with each step.

 
 

Video #2: Long Stride

Starting Position: Same as above.

The Pattern: Same as above, except focus on lifting your foot one inch higher and reaching it far out in front of you. Make your step as long as you can while maintaining your balance.

Each Step: Make sure you have the Pattern down. Press the pole tips firmly into the ground with each step.

 
 

Video #3: High Knee March

Starting Position: Same as above.

The Pattern: Same as above, except focus on driving your knee up as high as it will go, as if you're walking through deep grass or snow. Make your step as high as you can while maintaining your balance.

Each Step: Make sure you have the Pattern down. Press the pole tips firmly into the ground with each step.

 
 

Video #4: Punch the Sky

Starting Position: Hold the poles in the middle so both ends are off the ground. Your arms are straight and down by your side. Next, bend your elbows and bring the poles up to your shoulders so they're parallel to the ground.

The Pattern: Punch one arm up towards the sky, straightening your elbow as much as possible. At the same time, lift your opposite knee up as if you're marching. Bring your arm and leg back to the starting point. Repeat on the opposite side.

Each Step: Make these BIG movements and STRETCH each joint.

 
 

Video #5: Backwards

Starting Position: Stand up tall and hold onto the poles with the pole tips in front of you. Your arms should be by your sides with your elbows straight.

The Pattern: Step backwards with one leg while simultaneously reaching one arm behind you, sliding the pole tip on the ground. Don't worry too much about arm and leg coordination here.

Each Step: Keep your posture tall and press the tip of the pole into the ground in front of you. Pick your feet up and reach your leg out behind you.

 
 

Video #6: Texas Twist (Grapevine)

Starting Position: Hold the poles in the middle so both ends are off the ground. Your arms are straight and down by your side. 

The Pattern:

Your Feet - Take a big side step, then cross the following foot in front of the lead foot. Take another big side step, then cross the following foot behind the lead foot. Repeat, alternating crossing the following foot in front and behind. 

Your Arms - Bring your opposite hand to the hip of the foot that's in front, alternating arms.

Each Step: Aim to really rotate your trunk and (eventually) look up and not at your feet!

(This is a very advanced move so be patient with yourself!)

 
 

To see the entire YouTube Playlist of Pole Exercises, follow this link:

Invigorate PT & Wellness YouTube Playlist - Pole Exercise Series


What's the #1 thing you'd like to improve when it comes to walking?

Stamina? Arm swing? Posture? .. something else?

Share it in the comments section below or join the conversation on The Invigorated Community's private Facebook Group



Even More Helpful Resources for the Next Step on Your Journey: