Nordic walking beats interval training for better heart function

This low-impact, full-body workout that originated in Finland can be done at different intensity levels. It incorporates the use of specially designed poles that work in opposition to your legs, meaning your left arm and right foot work in tandem, and your right arm and left foot. The planting and pushing of the posts help you move forward, and the system is especially useful when going up or down hills.
Patients with coronary heart disease who participated in Nordic walking had a greater increase in their functional capacity, or ability to perform daily activities, compared with those who performed high-intensity interval training or moderate-to-vigorous continuous training . according to a recent study in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology.

Few studies have examined the effects of Nordic walking in cardiac rehabilitation patients, but other forms of exercise, namely HIIT workouts, have been studied extensively, said lead author Dr. Jennifer Reed, director of exercise physiology. and cardiovascular health at Ottawa Heart University. Institute in Canada. No other study has directly compared the above three exercise regimens.

“Our research showing the superior benefits of Nordic walking on functional capacity highlights an alternative exercise option that requires minimal cost and equipment to improve physical and mental health,” he said.

full body movement

Nordic walking exercises 80% to 90% of your muscles when done correctly, according to the American Nordic Walking Association, while walking and running only recruit 40%. Additional shoulder, chest, and arm muscles used are the deltoids, pectorals, upper abdominals, forearm flexors, subscapularis, triceps, and external obliques. Additionally, using these extra muscles leads to a 20 percent increase in calorie burn compared to normal walking, according to a study published in the journal Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport.

During Reed’s study, the researchers had 130 patients in a 12-week training program do 60 minutes of Nordic walking on an indoor track; 60 minutes of continuous moderate to vigorous training (eg, cycling or rowing); or a 45-minute HIIT workout. At the end of the training program, and again after a 14-week post-regimen observation period, participants performed two six-minute walk tests to measure functional capacity.

All exercise regimens helped relieve patients’ depression and improved their quality of life, but functional capacity was higher after Nordic walking, the researchers found. The walkers had a 19% increase in functional capacity compared to 13% of those who did the HIIT workouts and 12% of those who did the moderate-to-vigorous continuous training.

“The six-minute walk test to measure functional capacity is an evidence-based and generally reproducible test,” said Dr. Jonathan H. Whiteson, associate professor of rehabilitation and medicine at Langone Health. from NYU in New York City. He was not involved in the study.

“However, as a walking test to measure improvements from different exercise regimens, it is important to recognize that training is task-specific, so it is not so surprising that the walking intervention, rather than the other two exercise interventions that didn’t just focus on walking produced the greatest increase.”

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

The fact that Nordic walking is primarily a walking exercise and the other training programs include a variety of aerobic exercises may definitely be why it came out on top in the walking test, Reed acknowledged. The use of canes while walking may have improved speed and postural control, and increased stride length.

Either way, Whiteson had a note of caution: To achieve an increase in functional capacity, Nordic walking must be done vigorously and requires coordination and balance, he said. Therefore, it might not be a good option for everyone.

Building on the study, his team is set to begin a clinical trial that will explore the effects of combining different types of exercise in patients with cardiovascular disease, such as combining HIIT workouts with Nordic walking.

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feel the burn

The positive results of the study have also piqued the team’s interest in further exploring the potential benefits of Nordic walking on other health measures, such as upper and lower body strength, and indicators of cardiovascular health, such as glucose and lipids in the blood. Positive results may indicate 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 qualify for and can benefit from cardiac rehabilitation are referred and participate, Whiteson said. This lack of active rehab participants makes research like Reed’s important, as it points to another exercise modality they can use, and very practical, as 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 regimen, and their future health and wellness.”

Perhaps the most important takeaway from the study, both Reed and Whiteson said, is that everyone can benefit from exercise. “There is no magic pill for health, but exercise is medicine that targets multiple health conditions simultaneously,” Reed said. “When it comes to physical activity, I like to say, ‘Some is better than nothing, and more is better than some.'”

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