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Let me introduce Wendy*.

She joined Nordic Walking Watford in April 2017, shortly after her diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease. Very much in denial, she struggled to come to terms with the physical and emotional changes such a diagnosis brings. Trying to juggle work and looking after her own physical and mental health became a challenge and eventually, Wendy stopped Nordic Walking.

And then along came Covid…

However, Wendy was still keen on being active and understood the importance of exercise with Parkinson’s Disease. Determined to get back to Nordic Walking, Wendy took advantage of our *NEW* ARMCHAIR TO ACTIVE programme.

Gently progressive over 6 weeks, this unique course helps clients develop healthy habits through Nordic Walking. It’s ideal for those with long-term health conditions, recovering from illness or injury, and those who lack confidence.

Wendy completed the course, improving both fitness and confidence in her ability, and has gone on to participate in our regular walks. She recently clocked up an amazing 13 miles over 3 days! And she has made new friendships and connections along the way. Importantly, Wendy is learning that she can walk regularly if she paces herself and has some rest time in between her walks.

As her instructor, it has been so wonderful to watch Wendy progress and see her blossom on so many levels.


How can Nordic Walking help Parkinson’s Disease?

For people with Parkinson’s disease, exercise is more than healthy — it is a vital component of maintaining balance, mobility, and activities of daily living. Exercise and physical activity can improve many PD symptoms. These benefits are supported by research.

There is no “exercise prescription” that is right for every person with PD. The type of exercise you do depends on your symptoms and challenges. For sedentary people, just getting up and moving is beneficial. More active people can build up to regular, more vigorous activity.

Research has shown that exercise can improve gait, balance, tremor, flexibility, grip strength and motor coordination.

There is a strong consensus among physicians and physical therapists that improved mobility by exercising may improve thinking, and memory and reduce the risk of falls. By avoiding complications from falls you can prevent further injury.

At this time, we know that people who exercise vigorously have fewer changes in their brains caused by ageing:

  • Exercising did not affect the amount of dopamine in the brain, but in those that exercised, the brain cells were using dopamine more efficiently.
  • Exercise improves efficiency by modifying the areas of the brain where dopamine signals are received — the substantia nigra and basal ganglia.

At a molecular level, at least two things happen to make dopamine use more efficient:

  1. Dopamine travels across a space between two adjacent brain cells called a synapse. This process is called signalling and it is essential for normal functioning. To end the signal, a protein complex called the dopamine transporter normally retrieves dopamine from the synapse. Those that had exercised possessed less of the dopamine transporter, meaning that dopamine stayed in their synapses longer and their dopamine signals lasted longer.
  2. They found the cells receiving the dopamine signal had more places for the dopamine to bind in those that exercised and could receive a stronger signal. This binding site is the D2 receptor.

They also studied the D2 receptor in a subset of human subjects who were within one year of diagnosis and not on any medications, using an imaging technique called positron emission tomography (PET). They found that exercise increased the expression of D2 receptors in humans.


Normal exercise programs balance several different aspects of fitness including strength, balance, coordination, flexibility, and endurance.

Walking is great for your overall health, improving your body’s use of the heart and lungs, lowering cholesterol and blood pressure, and helping blood sugar regulation.

Nordic walking, in particular, can help you maintain a better posture and keep you more upright. At the same time, taking longer strides can gently stretch your limbs and keep your body rotated, which can help you loosen up and improve your coordination.

While the progression of PD often leads to slow walking with smaller steps, Nordic Walking creates a steady beat to improve pace and encourage the walker to make bigger movements.

Fatigue, as experienced by Wendy, is a big factor for people with PD and recognising limits and conserving energy is an important part of managing the condition.

One of the best things about Nordic Walking is that you can vary the intensity and really work at a level that suits you. And you can also make exercise fun and social when done in a group.


If you have Parkinson’s Disease and would like to see how Nordic Walking might help you, then why not join our NORDIC WALKING TASTER session on Thursday 14th July.

The session is FREE but booking is essential using the following link:


*Names have been changed to protect anonymity. 





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