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“I think it’s great that Nordic Walking is accessible for people with a disability – in my daughter’s case, both physical and a learning disability. I think that walking with Nordic poles will actually help her balance and stability.”


Recently one of our instructors taught a lovely young lady who has both learning and physical disabilities.

Her mum has been one of our regular walkers for a few years but was keen to be able to Nordic Walk with her daughter too.

We always try to ensure that Nordic Walking is available to all and work hard to remove barriers that may prevent someone from enjoying exercise and the outdoors. So to have this young lady participate in one of our Power of Poles courses was an absolute pleasure.

Her mum advised us that she would need extra time to process instructions and they need to be given slowly and clearly. The most significant physical problem was in her proprioception difficulties;  she does not receive the usual feedback for where her body is, which makes stairs/escalators challenging.
Proprioception is an important part of being physically fit and it plays an important role in the planning of precise and coordinated movements, in maintaining balance and controlling body posture. As fitness instructors, it is something we work on in our wellbeing sessions.

Proprioception is how the body senses itself. When you close your eyes, how do you know where your feet are? Your arms? Your hands? When you put a spoon to your mouth, you don’t need to look at the spoon to see where it is or feel for your mouth to know where to place the spoon; you know where your hand is in relation to your mouth.

Proprioception is the unconscious awareness of body position. It tells us:

  • About the position of our body parts, their relation to each other, and their relation to other people and objects.
  • It communicates how much force is necessary for muscles to exert and allows us to grade our movements.
  • Receptors for the proprioceptive system are located in muscles, tendons (where the muscles attach to the bone), ligaments, joint capsules (the protective lining of each joint), and connective tissue.
  • The receptors of the proprioceptive system respond to movement and gravity.
  • We depend on our proprioceptive system to help us make sense of touch and movement experiences.
  • Your brain then uses this information to plan movements so that you can coordinate your body.

Some children do not adequately receive or process information from their muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments or connective tissue. This results in insufficient feedback about movement and body position. They must use vision to compensate for poor body awareness and they have poor grading of movements. Motor planning abilities can be compromised, and fine and gross motor skills may be delayed. Difficulty processing proprioceptive information is usually accompanied by problems with the tactile or vestibular systems.

When integrated with other sensory input, proprioception is an essential component of coordinated movements, such as grasping a utensil or catching a ball.

Some children cannot position their bodies correctly to get on a bike or step on an escalator. Once in an activity, it may be difficult to change their body position in response to the demands of the activity. When playing ball, it may be difficult for some children to move right, left, or up high to catch a ball coming from different places. Some children have difficulty playing with toys because they are unsure of how to adjust their bodies to appropriately move or adjust toy parts. Children with proprioceptive problems often appear clumsy. They may fatigue easily and appear inattentive because they have to work hard and concentrate to determine the position of their bodies.


This young lady did really well during her course – it was challenging but she apparently does love a challenge! Her mum is her biggest advocate and has never accepted the limitations that her condition presents.


“I think that it challenged her, but in a good way and she told me that she really enjoyed it. Gary was great and had clearly taken on board the information that I had given, so do please thank him very much for making the session accessible to her. As with anything with motor skills, she now just need lots of practice, so I am going to order her some Nordic Walking poles from the NWUK website. It certainly helped her to have me there because I could explain and demonstrate in a way that she would understand. Thank you for allowing me to attend with her and looking forward to walking with you again soon”

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