Running or interval training may instantly come to mind if you’re seeking a cardiovascular activity that will get your heart pounding and improve daily life. But according to a recent study, you might want to try Nordic walking to get the most out of your workout.
Originally from Finland, this full-body, low-impact exercise can be done at various intensities. It involves using specifically made poles that require you to use your arms and feet in opposition to your legs, so that your left arm and right foot and your right arm and left foot cooperate. You may go more quickly by planting the poles and pushing them off, which is very useful for going up or down hills.
According to a recent study published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology, patients with coronary heart disease who participated in Nordic walking experienced a greater improvement in their functional capacity, or their ability to perform daily activities, than those who engaged in high-intensity interval training or continuous training at a moderate-to-vigorous level.
According to senior author Dr. Jennifer Reed, director of exercise physiology and cardiovascular health at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute in Canada, few studies have looked at the effects of Nordic walking on cardiac rehab patients while HIIT workouts have been thoroughly researched. No other study has explicitly contrasted the three exercise programs mentioned above.
“Our research offers an alternative training option that takes less money and equipment to improve physical and mental health,” she added. “Nordic walking has superior advantages on functional ability.”
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Nordic walking is a total-body movement
According to the American Nordic Walking Association, Nordic walking strengthens 80 to 90 percent of your muscles, whereas walking and running only utilize 40 percent. The deltoids, pectorals, upper abdominals, forearm flexors, subscapularis, triceps, and external obliques are additional shoulder, chest, and arm muscles used. Research in the journal Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport found that utilizing these extra muscles increases calorie burn by 20% when compared to simply walking normally.
In Reed’s study, 130 patients participated in a 12-week training program that included either a 45-minute HIIT session, 60 minutes of Nordic walking on an indoor track, or 60 minutes of continuous, moderate-to-vigorous exercise (such as cycling or rowing). The subjects completed two six-minute walk tests to gauge their functional capacity at the conclusion of the training regimen and once more following a 14-week post-regimen observation period.
All of the exercise programs alleviated the patients’ mood and enhanced their quality of life, but the researchers discovered that Nordic walking had the biggest positive impact on functional capacity. Comparatively to individuals who performed HIIT workouts and moderate-to-vigorous continuous exercise, walkers had a 19 percent increase in functional ability.
According to Dr. Jonathan H. Whiteson, an associate professor of rehabilitation and medicine at NYU Langone Health in New York City, “the six-minute walk test to determine functional capacity is an evidence-based and typically reproducible test.” He wasn’t a part of the investigation.
The walking intervention, as opposed to the other two exercise interventions that did not focus only on walking, provided the bigger gain, but it is crucial to remember that training is task-specific when using the walking test to gauge the improvements of various exercise regimens.
A cardio-pulmonary exercise test, commonly known as a metabolic stress test, can determine fitness levels by analyzing one’s metabolism, according to Whiteson, who also holds the position of medical director of cardiac rehabilitation at NYU Langone Health. “The outcomes of this study would have been improved by using CPET testing. Nevertheless, every modality increased functional capability, which is what a cardiac rehab program aims to achieve because it significantly lowers the risk of future cardiac episodes.”
It’s possible that Nordic walking’s success in the walk test was due to the fact that it is essentially a walking exercise while the other training plans incorporated a variety of cardiovascular exercises, according to Reed. The use of walking poles while moving may boost walking speed, postural control, and stride length.
In either case, Whiteson offered one word of caution: Nordic walking requires coordination and balance in addition to a rigorous exercise in order to enhance functional capacity. As a result, not everyone may find it to be a wise choice.
With the study as a foundation, her team is prepared to launch a clinical trial to examine the impact of mixing various exercise forms on people with cardiovascular disease, such as HIIT exercises and Nordic walking.