Allied Health Students Train Seniors in Nordic Walking

by Kathryn Sill, Public Relations Writer

Two Cedarville University allied health students performed a study comparing how long it would take senior jackets and college students  to learn Nordic walking.

Senior allied health majors Sydney Bissonette, from Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, and Karlee Mater , from Nashville, Michigan, are training the senior jackets, a group of senior citizens that meet in the Callan Athletic Center on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10 a.m. to socialize and exercise.

“Nordic walking uses ski poles to aid in exercise walking. It began in Finland when skiers wanted a summer activity with their ski poles,” Bissonette said. 

Beginning in the spring semester, Bissonette and Mater collaborated together on a research project in their exercise science class on Nordic walking. Bissonette, who plans to pursue a graduate degree in occupational therapy, and Mater, who plans to pursue a graduate degree in physical therapy, chose the senior jacket project because they wanted a hands-on, experimental-based experience.

“Dr. Dee Morris, [professor of allied health and coordinator of the allied health program] mentioned the Nordic walking and thought the use of poles in a geriatric population would be a beneficial tool to help them exercise more effectively, because they would feel safer because of poles,” said Evan Hellwig, Ph.D., chair of the department of kinesiology and allied health

“We did research and found there wasn’t a consistent protocol on how to train people on how to Nordic walk and how long it takes, so we decided to do a study on teaching people how to Nordic walk,” Bissonette said. 

Since implementing the exercise, 10 senior jackets and 12 college students have participated in the training sessions. During the fall they’ve walked on Cedarville University’s indoor track. Bissonette and Mater found that the college students adapted to the new style of walking at a faster pace than the senior jackets, but the senior jackets learned quicker than expected.

“Generally after two practice sessions that were 15 minutes each, most participants learned the technique of Nordic walking,” Mater said.

Hellwig, Bissonette, and Mater are hoping their positive experience with teaching Nordic walking will encourage more allied health students in the future to get involved with experimental-based research instead of clinical review research. 

“The point is we have to stop making assumptions that whatever we’re doing in therapy is good just because we’ve always done it that way, so evidence-based medicine forces you to ask the question if it really works,” Hellwig said. 

Hellwig believes involving students in the research process during undergraduate work helps prepare them for future endeavors in graduate school. 

Located in southwest Ohio, Cedarville University is an accredited, Christ-centered, Baptist institution with an enrollment of 3,620 undergraduate, graduate and online students in more than 100 areas of study. Founded in 1887, Cedarville is recognized nationally for its authentic Christian community, rigorous academic programs, strong graduation and retention rates, accredited professional and health science offerings and leading student satisfaction ratings.