Heart disease: Nordic walking could help people with the condition – what is it?

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A new study published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology has found a type of exercise known as Nordic walking could improve functional capacity in patients with heart disease.

Nordic walking is best described as an enhanced walking technique where people use poles to work the upper body as well as the legs.

The pastime is not unusual in the UK, one undertaken around the country.

Looking at the data, there is a growing body of evidence suggesting non-conventional exercise interventions such as Nordic walking could be more effective than traditional exercises.

The goal of the exercise and of recovering from heart disease is to increase functional capacity; a way to measure the ability of someone to physically perform tasks.

Speaking about the research, lead investigator Dr Jennifer Reed said: “Patients with coronary artery disease frequently demonstrate diminished functional capacity, low quality of life and increased the risk of subsequent cardiovascular events and mortality.”

As to why Nordic walking was beneficial, Dr Reed explained: “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.

“This is a key finding because lower functional capacity predicts higher risk of future cardiovascular events in people with coronary artery disease.”

According to the researchers, their study is a leading one in the field.

Tasuki Terada of the University of Ottawa, where the research was conducted, said: “No previous study has directly compared the long-term effects of high-intensity interval training, moderate-to-vigorous intensity continuous training and Nordic walking.

“This study is novel in that it simultaneously compared the sustained effects (i.e., 14 weeks after the completion of cardiovascular rehabilitation) of different exercise programs that can readily be incorporated into daily exercise.”

Terada said the study’s findings “can impact patient care by providing alternative exercise options based on their interests and needs”.

As a result, Nordic walking acts an efficacious alternative form of exercise for those recovering from heart disease.

Meanwhile, another study has found cardiovascular disease could increase a person’s risk of dementia.

Researchers from Sweden said people living with more than one cardiometabolic disease had an accelerated speed of cognitive decline and twice the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia.

Symptoms of dementia, the deadliest single disease in the UK, include:
• Memory loss
• Difficulty concentrating
• Finding it hard to carry out familiar daily tasks
• Struggling to follow a conversation or find the right word
• Confusion about time and place
• Mood changes.

Although there is no cure as yet in sight, scientists say new treatments could be available within the next decade.

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