Nordic walking suggests interval training for better heart function


Patients with coronary heart disease who did Nordic walking for 12 weeks had a greater increase in the ability to perform everyday activities than those who did interval training, a study said.

This gentle full-body workout, which originated in Finland, can be carried out at different levels of intensity. It involves using specially designed sticks that you work against your legs – meaning your left arm and right foot work in tandem and your right arm and foot. Standing up and pushing off the poles helps you move forward, and the system is especially helpful when going uphill or downhill.
Patients with coronary artery disease who participated in Nordic walking had greater increases in their functional capacity, or ability to perform daily activities, compared to patients who engaged in high-intensity interval training or continuous training at a moderate-to-intensity level. according to a recent study in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology.

Few studies have examined the effects of Nordic walking on cardiac rehabilitation patients, but other forms of exercise, namely HIIT workouts, have been extensively studied, said senior author Dr. Jennifer Reed, Director of Exercise Physiology and Cardiovascular Health at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute in Canada. No other study has directly compared the above three exercise programs.

“Our research, demonstrating the superior benefits of Nordic walking on functional performance, highlights an alternative exercise option that requires minimal expense and equipment to improve physical and mental health,” she said.

whole body movement

According to the American Nordic Walking Association, when done correctly, Nordic walking engages 80% to 90% of your muscles, while walking and running only recruit 40%. The additional shoulder, chest, and arm muscles worked are the deltoids, pecs, upper abdominals, forearm flexors, subscapularis, triceps, and external obliques. In addition, according to a study published in the journal Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, utilizing these extra muscles results in a 20% increase in calorie burn compared to regular walking.

During the Reed study, researchers had 130 patients on a 12-week exercise program that either performed 60 minutes of Nordic walking on an indoor track; 60 minutes of moderate-to-intense continuous exercise (e.g., bicycling or rowing); or a 45-minute HIIT workout. At the end of the exercise program and again after a 14-week follow-up period, participants undertook two six-minute walk tests to measure functional capacity.

All of the exercise programs helped reduce patients’ depression and improve their quality of life, but functional capacity was greatest after Nordic walking, the researchers found. The walkers had a 19% increase in functional capacity compared to 13% for the HIIT workouts and 12% for those doing the moderate-to-intensity continuous training.

“The six-minute walk test to measure functional capacity is an evidence-based and typically reproducible test,” said Dr. Jonathan H. Whiteson, Associate Professor of Rehabilitation and Medicine at NYU Langone Health in New York City. He was not involved in the study.

“However, as a walk test to measure improvements in different exercise programs, it is important to recognize that the training is task-specific, and thus it is not so surprising that the walking intervention, unlike the other two exercise interventions, did not focus solely on walking.” , generated the larger surge.”

How to train for better balance

A more objective measure of aerobic exercise is a cardiopulmonary exercise test, or metabolic stress test, which can measure fitness level through metabolic analysis, said Whiteson, who also serves as medical director for cardiac rehabilitation at NYU Langone Health. “The use of CPET testing would have improved the results of this study. That being said, all modalities improved functional capacity and this is the goal of a cardiac rehabilitation program as it correlates well with a reduced risk of future cardiac events.”

The fact that Nordic walking is primarily a gait exercise and the other training programs included a variety of aerobic exercises could certainly be why it came #1 in the walk test, Reed acknowledged. Using poles while walking can result in improved speed and postural control, as well as a longer stride length while walking.

Anyhow, Whiteson had a note of caution: To achieve an increase in functional capacity, Nordic walking must be done vigorously, and it requires coordination and balance, he said. As such, it may not be a good choice for everyone.

Building on the study, her team is poised to begin a clinical trial examining the effects of combining different exercise types on patients with cardiovascular disease, such as: B. the combination of HIIT training with Nordic walking.

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feel the heat

The positive study results have also sparked the team’s interest in further investigating the potential benefits of Nordic walking in relation to other health parameters such as upper and lower body strength and cardiovascular health indicators such as blood sugar and blood lipids. Positive results may point to its use for people with other conditions, such as obesity and diabetes.

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In the United States, only 20 to 30% of patients who are eligible for and could benefit from cardiac rehabilitation are referred and participate, Whiteson said. This lack of active rehab participants makes research like Reed’s important because it points to another exercise modality they can use — and a very practical one, since it can be done outside of a gym. “It also helps remind healthcare providers and patients that cardiac rehabilitation is an essential part of their recovery plan, future health and well-being.”

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from the study, Reed and Whiteson say, is that everyone can benefit from exercise. “There is no magic pill for health, but exercise is medicine that targets multiple health conditions at once,” Reed said. “When it comes to physical activity, I like to say, ‘Some is better than none, and more is better than some.'”

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