The workout that beats HIIT for better heart health, according to a new study

July 13, 2022

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.

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 another 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.

130 patients participated in a 12-week training regimen that included either a 45-minute HIIT workout, 60 minutes of Nordic walking on an indoor track, or 60 minutes of continuous, moderate-to-vigorous exercise (such as cycling or rowing). All of the exercise regimens helped the patients' depression and improved their quality of life, but the researchers found that functional capacity was greatest after Nordic walking. The participants underwent two six-minute walk tests to measure functional capacity after the training program and again after a 14-week post-regimen observation period. Comparatively to individuals who performed HIIT workouts and moderate-to-vigorous continuous exercise, walkers had a 19 percent increase in functional ability.

The six-minute walk test to measure functional capacity is an evidence-based and typically reproducible test, according to doctor Dr. Jonathan H. Whiteson, associate professor of rehabilitation and medicine at NYU Langone Health in New York City. Patients with coronary heart disease who performed Nordic walking for 12 weeks had a greater improvement in their ability to perform daily activities than those who did interval training. The walking intervention, as opposed to the other two exercise interventions that did not focus solely 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 do because it significantly lowers the risk of recurrent 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. In any case, Whiteson offered one word of caution: Nordic walking needs to be done actively and requires coordination and balance, he noted, in order to obtain a gain in functional capacity. Nordic walking may also enhance speed and postural control, as well as increase walking-stride length. Based on the findings of the study, her team is about to launch a clinical trial to examine the impact of combining various exercise forms on patients with cardiovascular disease, such as matching HIIT with Nordic walking.

Feel the burn

The team's interest in further researching the potential advantages of Nordic walking on other health metrics, such as upper- and lower-body strength and cardiovascular health markers like blood glucose and cholesterol, has also been aroused by the favorable study results. Positive outcomes might support its usage for people with additional illnesses, such diabetes and obesity.

Only 20 to 30 percent of patients in the United States who are eligible for and could benefit from cardiac rehabilitation are referred and take part.
Research like Reed's is significant because it identifies a different training modality that active rehab patients may use. This exercise modality is also very practical because it can be performed outside of a gym.
It also serves as a reminder to medical professionals and patients that cardiac rehab is a crucial component of their healing process, as well as their long-term health and wellbeing.

According to Reed and Whiteson, the study's most important conclusion is that everyone can benefit from exercise. When it comes to physical activity, some is better than none, and more is better than some. There is no magic cure for health, but exercise is medicine that concurrently tackles several health concerns.

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