Nordic Walking and Gymstick - GNW PROGRAM 6. 2.

Author: Jasna Vešligaj Damiš, Ladislav Mesarič

Keywords: nordic walking, gymstick, bands, nordic walking poles, gymstick exercise bands


With Nordic Walking Gym exercise bands we can modify our walking, cross country or alpine poles into a Gymstick exercise bar in just a few seconds by attaching the NW Gym bands on them. The combination of poles and bands will allow you to perform a complete workout improving your muscle strength, balance and mobility. You can choose to exercise in between your walking program in the open air or at home. This allows you to do both walking cardio exercise and muscle condition training anywhere, anytime!

GNW program - who is it for?

The program is intended for those who are attracted to this kind of physical activity, but especially adapted for persons with disabilities.

Persons with disabilities are those who deviate from the expected features and capabilities defined in a particular environment, and require extra attention and care, like:

  • Persons with acquired brain injury (ABI),
  • Persons with intellectual disabilities (ID),
  • Visually impaired,
  • Hearing impaired,
  • Persons with speech and language disorders,
  • Physically handicapped persons,
  • Long-term sick persons,
  • Persons with learning difficulties,
  • Persons with emotional and behavioral disorders,
  • Persons with autism spectrum disorders,
  • Talented person.

The program was developed by the Centre Naprej as part of rehabilitation programs to include users who all experienced severe brain damage.

Photo: Jasna Vešligaj Damiš, users of Centra Naprej, Piramida, Maribor, 2017

Photo: Jasna Vešligaj Damiš, users of Centra Naprej, Piramida, Maribor, 2017

Why gnw program for people with disabilities or for persons with ABI?

Good physical condition allows welfare. The result of a systematic and continuous work is also a consequence of mental attitude to live healthy and active, which also increases confidence. Being fit does not mean only physical ability, but it touches all areas of our lives. It helps to purify negative patterns, traumas from past, frustrations and focus on what really counts in life. Physical activities are critical to maintaining an active and independent lifestyle. A man aged between 30 and 70 years losses about a quarter of his muscle strength, a man who experiences 90 years more than half. Movement is the key to maintaining the health, welfare and working capabilities.

Photo: Jasna Vešligaj Damiš, users of Center Naprej, Piramida, Maribor, 2017

Photo: Jasna Vešligaj Damiš, users of Center Naprej, Piramida, Maribor, 2017

Physical/sport activity may be an important factor in the social life of a person. It allows him to have fun in the company of others, make acquaintances and friendships, and feel part of the group.

All individuals with special needs can have a variety of problems in the field of physical disabilities. Despite this, they must be physically active within their capabilities, because the lack of movement leads to new complications that prevent a better quality of life. People with traumatic head and brain injury, which usually occurs as a result of a traffic accident, fall, etc., the basic physical exercises affect the improvement of motor functions, functions of the locomotor system, relaxation of muscle tone and stimulate the equilibrium reaction.

Walking is man’s elemental movement and efficient movement workout. It is suitable for all people who can walk and is a completely natural and safe recreation that can be performed anywhere, anytime. It does not require expensive equipment or special facilities, but only the time and the will. Regular walking improves both mental as well as physical health as it strengthens each and every muscle in the body, while not overloading the joints. In addition, the body after thirty minutes of walking begins with the secretion of serotonin, the hormone of happiness, and endorphin, thus largely contributing to a good and a lot less stressful mood. Due to release tension, walking has a beneficial effect on sleep.

The first step towards improving the efficiency of walking is walking with poles (more commonly known as Nordic walking). Poles have always been a device for walking. The poles evenly distribute loads which occur during walking. They redistribute part of the weight that would otherwise put pressure on the hips and knees, on the hands. Thus, with each step, we are strengthening the hands. The intensive work period also strengthens the cardio-respiratory function. Poles provide additional stability when walking which is especially important for people with impaired balance.

However, exercising only through walking is not sufficient to prevent the loss of muscle strength. Without strength training the muscles still become weake and less functional. Effective training has duration of not more than twenty minutes and requires little effort. The key is to use the exercises in which muscles work against an external resistance, and to include all parts of the body. Methods of strength training include the use of free weights, fitness equipment, rubber bands, balls and exercises with its own weight. To avoid injury start slowly and build up exercise strengths where appropriate.

Poles also serve as requisite and support for exercises for flexibility. The combination of walking with poles, exercises for power with elastics and exercises for flexibility with poles, gives an ideal combination, which meets all the basic requirements of natural (physical) fitness related to health. The American College of Sports Medicine has defined adequate physical fitness related to health, as a set of five different measurable elements.

Figure 9: Physical fitness related to health (Source: American College of Sport Medicine)

Figure 9: Physical fitness related to health (Source: American College of Sport Medicine)

Cardio respiratory capacity is defined as the ability of the heart, circulatory and respiratory system that efficiently supplies the active muscles with oxygen at the time of continuous muscle activity. The structure of the body usually refers to the percentage of muscle, bone and fat mass in the body. Normally we monitor the percentage of fatty tissue. Physique is an organism’s ability to perform activities requiring a high level of generation of muscular force.

Muscle endurance is the ability of a muscle or muscle group to perform repeated muscular contraction for a long time, or to retain a high level of development of muscular force for a long time.

Especially important is to maintain muscle mass, that is, if it is inactive, subjected to rapid atrophy. Both parameters can be in dealing with the physical form and health considered together as muscle strength.

Mobility is the ability to perform large amplitude movements in a certain order or a certain plane.

All of the above mentioned areas effectively improve due to appropriate exercise at all ages.

Photo: Zvonka Novak, users of Center Naprej, Kalvarija, Maribor, 2017

Photo: Zvonka Novak, users of Center Naprej, Kalvarija, Maribor, 2017

Gymstick nordic walking – adaptations for persons with disabilities

Adjustments to the program in terms of age

Implementation of the program is not limited by age; it can be implemented in all stages of life. Therefore it is wrong to think that this kind of physical activity cannot be carried out by elderly. Ageing is a gradual reduction of biological functions, and the ability of the organism. During this process an individual is facing deterioration of his working, reproductive and creative functions. During ageing changes can be seen at the level of cells, tissues and the organism itself. Many years of research confirmed the fact that in the process of ageing regular and balanced aerobic physical activity has a significant impact on the preservation and enhancement of physical and mental abilities. So it is never too late to start with exercising regularly.

Regular exercise can effectively reduce or prevent a number of functional problems associated with ageing. Strength training helps to delay the reduction of muscle mass and strength, which is typical for ageing. This type of exercise improves the bone structure, and thereby reduces the risk of osteoporosis, improves the balance and thereby minimizes the risk of falling, consequently associated with injuries and fractures, and also improves flexibility and range of motion. Physical activity has a favourable effect on the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Regular exercise is also connected with the maintenance of cognitive function, reducing depression and improving self-esteem. In addition to these, regular physical activity enriches the elderly with positive emotion and welfare, reduces nervousness and mental stress, maintains the mental and spiritual balance, improves sleep, maintains and creates new friendships.

Adjustments to the program in terms of gender

This program is suitable for both men and women and there is no need for adjustments regarding gender. There are also no restrictions in terms of physical, cognitive and sensory deficits. Quite the contrary - appropriately selected physical activities that improve flexibility, muscle strength, aerobic capacity and other physical aspects, allow better rehabilitation of people with various deficits.

For the implementation of the program for persons with different limitations two conditions must be provided: trainers must know the particularities of the population they are dealing with and must be specially trained to adapt the exercise to the remaining physical and cognitive abilities of users. Therefore an individual training can be accomplished, completely balanced on the personal aims. An important part is also risk assessment of the program because in every training there must be full safety measures provided for all included.

Equipment for gnw programme

Nordic Walking Poles

Nordic Walking poles differ from regular trekking or alpine skiers poles in one main area: the grips and straps. The Nordic Walking straps stay wrapped snugly round the hands and are clipped to the slimmer grip of the pole. This allows the pole to be swung from the hand, with the downward pressure from the arms quickly applied to the pole when it reaches the desired position. Carbon is best for pole composition but it costs more and other compounds are entirely suitable for the recreational Nordic Walker.

Figure 10: Gymstick Nordic Walking poles

Figure 10: Gymstick Nordic Walking poles

Select the correct Length of Poles

To choose the right length poles, first determinate the proper pole by multiplying your height by 0,68 or by referring to the chart down. As a rule of thumb, the elbow should be at 90 degree angle to the surface when the poles in a relaxed grip on the ground. For beginners it is recommended to start with a shorter pole.

Use the following table to select the correct length of the poles:

Table 5: Measure of Poles

Table 5: Measure of Poles

Nordic Walking Gym Exercise Bands

The Nordic Walking Gym Exercise bands are available in any of the three resistance levels below:

  • Light/Green - for rehabilitation workouts and exercise for the elderly. The resistance of green exercise bands ranges from 1 to 10 kg.
  • Medium/Blue - for junior athletes and women who want to start exercising. The resistance of blue exercise bands ranges from 1 to 15 kg.
  • Strong/Black - for fit women, men who want to start exercising, and athletes. The resistance of black exercise bands ranges from 1 to 20 kg.
Photo: Zvonka Novak, users of Center Naprej, Piramida, Maribor, 2017

Photo: Zvonka Novak, users of Center Naprej, Piramida, Maribor, 2017

How to use the Exercise Bands

Transforming the poles to a Gymstick and adjusting the resistance

  • Take bands from handbag.
  • Put the poles next to each other, handles pointing to opposite directions, with the paw-part extending further out than the handle of the other pole.
  • Tighten the poles to each other with the Velcro.
  • Set the loops on both feet, in the middle of the sole, roll the elastic band around the bar (both poles) a couple of times and you are ready to begin a Gymstick exercise routine.
  • In the beginning of each movement the exercise band must be straight but not stretched. You can increase the resistance by rolling the bands around the poles and decrease the resistance by releasing the bands from around the poles.
  • When you have adjusted a suitable resistance, remember to grip the stick with a relaxed but firm grip to avoid slipping.
  • Do not stretch the bands over four times their original length when exercising

Appropriate clothing and footwear

In order to feel good during the training and to maintain obtain safety we have to pay special attention on proper footwear and clothing. We should never put on new shoes or hiking boots for the first long hike. Footwear must be suited to activities carried out in nature. We can use running shoes, trekking shoes or light hiking boots. Hiking boots shouldn’t be too high, as this prevents proper technical implementation of Nordic walking. It is important that the shoe offers good support and has non-slip soles.

We can engage in GNW in all seasons, but we must always dress according to the weather conditions, because the cold contributes to exhaustion. In the case of variable weather conditions, we have to wear several layers of clothing, which can be, if necessary, removed. Clothing should be light, sporty. Too loose clothing can hinder us in the activities. If we are too hot and we face excessive sweating, we need to make sure our body gets enough fluids. In the backpack, which should not be too heavy, we carry only the necessary things. We have to make sure that our back and neck are protected from the cold and wind. Therefore, we should have a spare T-shirt to be able to change clothes.


Retrieved from manual for rehabilitation of persons with disabilities: Vešligaj Damiš, J., Mesarič, L., Mesarič, P. GNW- Gymstick – Nordic walking program