By John Salak —
Individuals suffering from coronary heart disease benefit from exercise, but not all activity is equal. Some forms deliver significant health and recovery returns.
Canadian and U.S. researchers discovered that Nordic walking gave these individuals a significant boost in their ability to perform daily activities compared to standard high-intensity interval training and moderate-to-vigorous intensity continuous training.
Nordic walking may deliver extra benefits because it uses designed poles to engage upper and lower body muscles. Regardless, discovering the most effective exercise routines for patients suffering from cardiovascular disease is critical because it can undermine the quality of life, lead to additional heart issues and increase mortality rates.
The team, which came from various institutions in Ottawa and New Orleans, was quick to stress that exercise training programs, in general, have helped cardiovascular patients improve functional capacity, cardiorespiratory fitness and mental health. However, they wanted to determine if some exercise programs were more potent than others. Newer options might more effectively engage patients leading to faster and more robust recoveries, they speculated.
The team looked to Nordic walking and other non-conventional exercises for undiscovered gains. Research showed these approaches are more effective than traditional exercises in improving functional capacity measured by a six-minute walk test, an indicator for patients with coronary artery disease.
The study’s 12-week comparative tests underscored the relative benefits of Nordic walking. It resulted in a 19-percent boost in functional capacity compared to a 13-percent gain from high-intensity interval training and a 12-percent jump from moderate-to-vigorous intensity continuous training.
“This is a key finding because lower functional capacity predicts a higher risk of future cardiovascular events in people with coronary artery disease,” noted lead investigator Dr. Jennifer L. Reed of the University of Ottawa. “Nordic walking engages core, upper and lower body muscles while reducing loading stress at the knee, which may have resulted in greater improvements in functional capacity.”
The study is significant because it is the first to compare the long-term effects of high-intensity interval training to moderate-to-vigorous intensity continuous training and Nordic walking.
Blending Nordic walking into cardiovascular rehabilitation programs may provide an ideal progression from moderate training or traditional walking, especially for deconditioned patients who may not tolerate the high-intensity exercise, explained Dr. Carl J. Lavie.
“The addition of Nordic poles to moderate to vigorous-intensity walking is a simple, accessible option to enhance walking capacity, increase energy expenditure, engage upper body musculature, and improve other functional parameters such as posture, gait, and balance,” he said.