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A Life Transformed with Nordic Poles

Posted on February 26, 2016 in Community Highlight, General, Resident Profile
Nancy Arnold

Nancy Arnold

Pennswood Village residents Nancy and Henry Arnold were planning a trip to Paris last year. As former life-long New Yorkers, they thrive in an urban setting and were looking forward to seeing as much of the City of Lights as possible – on foot, like good urban dwellers. Nancy was challenged by growing health concerns that her trip to Paris would change from long strolls by the Seine and hours in museums to being unable to participate in these activities. Coffee sitting in cafes is only enjoyable up to a point. The neuropathy in her feet was getting worse and she had recently begun using a walker to help with stability and balance. Her back had begun to curve from all of the looking down that she needed to do to maintain her balance.

After talking about the challenges of bringing a walker to Paris, Henry suggested she try Nordic Poles, something they had seen all ages using throughout a lifetime of travel in Europe. Nancy got her first set of poles in June and “immediately I felt a change in my body,” she says.

Nordic poles are long sticks used for walking and hiking, similar to the poles used for cross-country skiing. However, they are anything but traditional walking sticks. They’re used as an exercise tool to improve balance, build stronger muscles, take pressure off joints, and reinforce proper posture, all while having fun doing it.

You hold one pole in each hand and move them along side of you as you walk, just as you would use ski poles while cross-country skiing, minus the snow and skis. Nordic poles create a cyclical motion, using opposite arm and leg movements. Athletes and cross-country skiers who want to stay fit and active during the warmer months often use them for practice.

While they are similar to walking sticks, there are a few important differences that set Nordic poles apart. First, the handgrip makes them more comfortable to use. Second, the poles have foot-like supports on the bottom to direct the motion. There are angled bottoms and straight bottoms that are interchangeable, depending on the kind of exercise you’re using the poles for. The angled feet are used when you are placing the poles behind you, and the straight feet are when you are placing them in front. Some kinds of Nordic poles come with wrist straps for additional leverage, while others come without straps so you can easily drop them if needed. Many of the poles also feature adjustable heights.

Nancy began using the poles in June and by the time she and Henry went to Paris in September, she was able to enjoy the city walking three to four miles a day. “Nordic Poles changed my life,” she says, “I feel like I’ve developed two new legs. I can look up again while walking and walk distances that I haven’t been able to walk in years.”

IMG_2461Nordic poles—while already popular in places like Europe and the west coast of the United States—have not yet become popular in this part of the world. So when Nancy began practicing with her poles around Pennswood Village, residents took notice.

“I was stopped in the halls every day with fellow residents asking questions and remarking that I was standing straighter,” says Nancy.

With growing excitement, Nancy took the idea of Nordic Poles to Pennswood’s Fitness Staff to explore the idea of expanding this fitness option to other residents.

Becky Popik, the Fitness & Aquatics Manager at Pennswood says, “I ran across Nordic poles a few years ago, and thought it had great potential but I also thought it would be a hard sell. How can I get people exited about this?” But, when residents started requesting them, and with Nancy as a cheerleader, she began developing several fitness programs that used Nordic poles for interested residents.

There are already more than 60 residents who have registered for Nordic pole classes. The classes are divided into different levels according to athletic ability, and the different types of exercises residents wish to do.

The first class is an introductory session so beginners can learn how to use the poles and get comfortable using them. Other classes will include outdoor group use, a strength building class and one for balance and stability improvement.

“I really feel like it has potential, and that it will be something residents continue with. I see people walking with them all the time now,” says Becky. “Nancy started using them last summer, and she’s never going to stop using them.”


“Nordic Poles use about 90% of the muscles in your body and the change in my balance, coordination, and strength, not to mention my endurance in walking has transformed my life,” says Nancy. “The partnerships between staff and residents at Pennswood helped make this fitness choice available to everyone in our community. No wonder we all love living here!”

For more information on how residents stay fit and healthy at Pennswood Village, call us today at 866-740-4977.