Health & Wellness

Pole Walking for Cardiac Rehab

By Wendy Haaf

There’s good news for people with heart disease who need cardiac rehabilitation but hate going to the gym or are bored by repetitive exercises: Nordic walking provides the same benefits—and more. A 2022 study carried out at the Ottawa Heart Institute involved 130 patients aged 40 to 74 who were referred for cardiac rehabilitation.

Participants were randomly assigned to one of three twice-weekly exercise regimens: 45 minutes of high intensity interval training (HIIT), 60 minutes of continuous moderate-to-vigorous aerobic exercise, or 60 minutes of continuous or intermittent walking using Nordic poles. Sessions (all unsupervised) took place over 12 weeks, and participants were tracked for an additional 14 weeks after completion.

While the groups experienced similar improvements in depression symptoms and quality of life, pole walkers saw greater gains in walking speed: an average of 19 per cent, versus 13 and 12 per cent respectively for HIIT and moderate-to-vigorous aerobic exercise.

Nordic walking works 80 to 90 per cent of the muscles in the body, compared with just 50 per cent during regular walking. While cardiac rehab reduces the risk for dying by up to 58 per cent over one year, only about a third of eligible patients participate in such programs.

Source: Canadian Journal of Cardiology

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