Posted on February 12, 2017

Every year, Aspire Zone Foundation (AZF) looks for new and innovative elements to add to its National Sport Day celebration to make the event as engaging and appealing to as many members of the local community as possible. For its sixth annual NSD celebration, AZF has incorporated “Nordic Walking” into its programme, a new sporting trend that is growing in popularity.

“Nordic Walking” originated in the Scandinavian region of northern Europe. A method of walking that uses especially designed poles, it is an activity that is suitable for non-athletes looking to keep active, burn calories, and improve their health overall. Drawing on the expertise of its staff, world-renowned coaches from ‘Exercise is Medicine’ programme in Aspetar – one of AZF’s member organisations – will be based at five stations in front of Aspetar’s West Expansion to demonstrate the activity to visitors between the ages of 18-50. The 2-hour demonstrations will be held from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm, and participants will be provided with special walking poles for the activity, to be returned after the activity is finished.

Participants will follow a course that runs between the five stations before returning to the start point. The first station acts as the starting line, and from here participants make their way to the second station which includes a 10-minute stop for stretching and balance exercises. Next is the third station which includes a 20-minute stop for fun games, then the fourth which includes another 10-minute stop for stretching. Finally, the last station marks the finish of the course from where participants return to Aspetar’s West Wing.

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Describing “Nordic Walking” and the benefits it offers, Dr. Husam Rezeq, Head of the Exercise is Medicine Clinic in Aspetar, said: “Thirty years ago, the average walking rate of a non-athlete ranged between 25 to 30 thousand steps a day. More recent studies have shown however that this rate has decreased rapidly and now ranges between just two to three thousand steps each day. This has important implications for individuals’ overall health, which is why we’re focusing closely on this trend and looking for practical solutions.”

He continued: “Experts from Aspetar’s Exercise is Medicine have found that Nordic Walking is a particularly effective form of exercise. It is one that has grown in popularity in developed countries in the past couple of years. Published research has highlighted the health benefits and it is a suitable exercise option for a wide range of patients and non-athletes, of varying levels of fitness.”

Recent studies conducted in developed countries have emphasised how “Nordic Walking” can improve physical and mental health. Such studies have shown that Nordic Walking activates 90% of the body’s muscles, burns up to 46% more calories and improves cardio-pulmonary fitness through increasing heart rate by 10-15% compared to regular walking. It also increases the lateral mobility of the spine, improves coordination and balance, works the upper and lower body at the same time and reduces the pressure on the knees and joints. The combination of these benefits make Nordic Walking an ideal exercise for people suffering from a wide variety of chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, osteoporosis, Parkinson’s disease, obesity, and Multiple Sclerosis.

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Dr. Rezeq continued: “We’re keen to encourage as much of the local community as possible to adopt this sport. Building on the popularity of our previous workshops, we decided to incorporate it into occasions such as National Sport Day to introduce it to large numbers of people. Aspetar provides men and women interested in the sport with between five to seven introductory sessions to teach them how to practice it correctly. For those who practice it for therapeutic reasons, these sessions help teach patients how to balance the walking sticks for long periods of time by gradually improving their muscle’s endurance. Sessions for women are delivered in indoor halls to provide them with the privacy they require.”

Exercise is Medicine Qatar (EIMQ) is a global initiative that is managed in Qatar by Aspetar as part of their Exercise Is Medicine Department, and is considered one of the key components in supporting the goals and objectives of the National Health Strategy and vision of Aspetar. More information about Nordic Walking and other programmes offered by Exercise is Medicine can be found on Namat is a national and regional public health education platform developed by the Exercise Is Medicine Department at Aspetar.

Namat provides new knowledge and enhances existing understanding about best practice guidelines for physical activity and healthy eating, contributing to a sustained change in positive lifestyle behaviours in Qatar and other Arab societies. In February 2015, the Namat website won first prize at the Gulf Excellence Award for Media in Riyadh, KSA, for the best health web platform.

More information about Aspire Zone Foundation’s programmes and events is available on its social media channels, or through the ‘Life in Aspire’ smartphone app or from the website