New Walking Technique Safe and Healthy for Heart Failure Patients
In a poster presentation at the Heart Failure Congress 2012 in Belgrade, Serbia, researchers report that they have found that using Nordic poles during a walk is a safe and healthy way for heart failure patients to walk their way to recovery.
One of the problems with recovery from heart failure is to find a safe and effective exercise for heart failure patients in recovery who experience difficulty with aerobic type exercises. Aerobic exercise following a heart attack plays an important role not only in recovery, but also in achieving a level of fitness that improves the quality of life and reduces the incidence of further heart failure related re-hospitalizations.
One type of aerobic exercise that might be a good fit for some heart failure patients is to supplement their walking exercise with gently, heart rate-ramping Nordic poles. Walking with Nordic poles mimics the same movements used in cross country skiing and as a result makes the patient use their arms along with their legs during exercise. This type of exercise is referred to as “Nordic walking.”
To test the effectiveness and safety of Nordic walking, researchers tested the effects of walking with and without Nordic poles on both healthy and heart failure test subjects. Twelve healthy and 12 heart failure patients in recovery were placed on a treadmill for intervals of 6 minutes at a constant speed of approximately 3 miles per hour. Of two intervals performed by each test subject, one was with Nordic poles and one was performed without Nordic poles. During the treadmill exercises, the test subjects’ cardiorespiratory responses were measured.
What the researchers found was that Nordic walking in comparison to walking without poles in the healthy test subjects resulted in increased oxygen consumption and a higher respiratory quotient in addition to an increased heart rate. Likewise, Nordic walking in the heart failure patient group also resulted in significantly increased oxygen consumption, respiratory quotient and heart rate in comparison to walking without the Nordic poles. Furthermore, there were no signs of ischemia or irregular heartbeats during the testing.
"In Nordic walking we have a big workload because we use additional muscle groups," says lead author Andrzej Lejczak, a physiotherapist at the Military Hospital in Wroclaw, Poland. "We walk with four limbs, so we're exercising our arms and legs at the same time—that's why we have such a beneficial response."
The authors of the study conclude that Nordic walking is a safe and beneficial activity for heart failure patients during their rehabilitation toward a healthier heart and improved quality of life.
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Reference: “Nordic walking enables a safe increase in exercise intensity and may be a more effective training method than walking without poles in patients with HF and healthy subjects” European Journal of Heart Failure Supplements ( 2012 ) 11 ( S1 ), S165; A Lejczak et al.