Walking is a commonly recommended activity for heart patients in a rehabilitation setting. It is also one of the most available and used forms of exercise by all people who report exercising. However, it seems Nordic walking may be better than regular walking.
A group of researchers set out to explore if using Nordic walking poles could improve aerobic fitness more than walking alone. Past research supports benefits across many populations as seen in a 2012 systematic review of Nordic walking. The current randomized control trial was open to people with acute coronary syndrome (ACS) and peripheral arterial occlusive disease (PAOD).
The researchers had two groups of 21 persons in each group. A walking group and a Nordic walking group. Both groups walked the same protocol for 4-weeks with the only difference being the Nordic group used walking poles and the other did not.
Nordic walking vs. Walking
After four weeks, both groups were assessed by a six-minute walk test which is a good measure of aerobic exercise capacity. The test is simple, on a level walking area how far can one walk self-paced. The researchers also conducted graded stress tests to measure aerobic power.
The study results showed that both groups improved fitness. However, according to the study authors, “The Nordic walking group showed significantly greater walk distance than the walking group”.
One patient group achieved greater gain than the other according to the results. The authors wrote:
“Both ACS and PAOD groups showed improvement, but the improvement was significant for only PAOD patients.”
In their conclusion:
“Nordic walking training appeared more efficient than training without poles for increasing walk distance on the 6-min walk test”.
Meaning they experienced greater aerobic fitness using Nordic poles.
Why did Nordic walking poles work?
Using Nordic walking poles recruits more muscle mass vs walking without poles. This elicits a greater cardiorespiratory response with can further improve fitness. Compared with ordinary walking, Nordic walking required as much as 67% greater energy expenditure.
The use of poles also allows individuals to walk faster, especially people who have disorders that impact gait and ability to walk. Nordic walking poles may reduce perceived exertion (how hard one feels they are working) but this may first require practice using the poles.
Get started using Nordic walking poles
You may be tempted to run out to Walmart and buy a pair of hiking poles and start walking. Before you drop $25.00 on a set of poles watch this video by American Nordic Walking Association.
Girold, Sebastien, Jerome Rousseau, Magalie Le Gal, Emmanuel Coudeyre, and Jacqueline Le Henaff. “Nordic Walking versus Walking without Poles for Rehabilitation with Cardiovascular Disease: Randomized Controlled Trial.” Annals of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine (2017): n. pag. Web.