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Walking to health – the nordic way

22nd May 2009

Health Walk leaders in the Cairngorms have looked beyond the North Sea to Scandinavia for inspiration in tackling Scotland’s health problems.

The volunteers were put through their paces at a recent training course to enable them to lead health walks under the Cairngorms Walking to Health Project, a health improvement and community development initiative in the area.

The new mode of health walks is being launched at Cambus O’May forest trails on Monday (May 25) with a demonstration health walk carried out by Alan Melrose, Health Walks Co-ordinator for Cairngorms Outdoors Access Trust (COAT).

The training course was the first of its type in the UK to be delivered by the International Nordic Walking Association (INWA). This will allow newly trained Health Walk leaders to deliver a Nordic walk session as part of their host of activities to improving health.

Nordic walking is one of the most adaptable exercises around, and programmes can be developed to suit just about everyone. It originates from the summer training for cross-country skiers and works the muscles in your legs, arms, rear part of the shoulders, chest and back.

Alan Melrose, COAT’s Health Walks Co-ordinator, said: “The technique of Nordic walking works more muscles in your body and uses more calories than normal walking but can actually feel easier due to the effort being spread across your whole body rather than concentrating in your legs. In addition the effect on your heart and lungs is excellent, especially with all the pure air that we get in the Cairngorms!”

The initiative is managed by COAT, whose manager Dougie Baird said: “It is great to see the benefits of outdoors access being rolled out to everyone, and we are very grateful for grant funding towards this from Paths to Health and EU New LEADER funding through the Rural Aberdeenshire and Cairngorms Local Action Groups.”

New Nordic walking session leader Mary Wright said that even after the first session participants said they felt the benefits of Nordic walking and they put it down to walking with an improved posture because of the poles.

Cairngoms National Park Authority board member Richard Stroud commented: “Nordic Walking is an excellent way of having fun and getting fit, and we now have a team who can lead people in this pursuit across the Park.”

Local Councillor Marcus Humphrey, Director of COAT and a CNPA board member, is launching Monday’s initiative and will present certificates to recently trained Nordic Walk leaders.

He said: “We are delighted that COAT have been able to build on the success of the current Nordic walking activities to make it more available and increase participation. By utilising the community path networks in the Cairngorms for Nordic walking and its associated health improvement this is a major contribution from COAT to the Scottish Governments health and access agenda.”

Anyone wanting to find out how they can take part in a local Health Walk to improve fitness including a Nordic Walk can contact Alan Melrose, Cairngorms Health Walks Coordinator on 01339 880081 or [email protected]