(RxWiki News) Heart failure patients bored of the typical cardiac rehabilitation exercise machines can get the same or better benefit with a new activity.
Research suggests Nordic walking with the assistance of long poles improves life quality.
In addition to an improved quality of life, exercise also appears to reduce the number of heart failure-related hospitalizations.
"Try joining a Nordic walking group to increase heart health."
Andrzej Lejczak, lead author and a physiotherapist at the Military Hospital in Poland, noted that Nordic walking uses additional muscle groups capable of providing a beneficial response because the arms and legs are exercised simultaneously.
He said the addition of the poles when walking is safe, especially for older patients who find it difficult to engage in physical activity, and provides more intense exercise.
The motion of Nordic walking copies that of cross country skiing, and has been growing in popularity as a form of exercise in Europe.
During the small study, 12 heart failure patients and 12 healthy participants performed two six-minute walking tests on a treadmill at a constant speed. One of those tests was with Nordic walking poles, and the other without them.
Investigators then compared cardiorespiratory responses when patients walked with or without the poles. In healthy patients, Nordic walking increased oxygen consumption 37 percent and led to a higher respiratory quotient of 5 percent compared to walking without poles. Maximal systolic blood pressure was 15 mmHg higher and peak heart rate was increased by 20 beats per minute or more.
The patients were also found to be more fatigued.
Among heart failure patients, Nordic walking increased oxygen consumption by 15 percent and respiratory quotient by 18 percent. Peak heart rate increased by 15 beats a minute and blood pressure was increased by 10 mmHg. Researchers found heart failure patients also were more fatigued as compared to walking without poles.
In addition, there were no significant arrhythmias or signs of cardiac ischemia, suggesting the more intense exercise is safe for heart failure patients, while allowing them to reap additional cardiovascular benefits.
Investigators suggest heart failure patients can purchase the poles, take two or three Nordic walking lessons, then safely exercise outdoors without the need for visiting the gym.
The study was presented today at the Heart Failure Congress 2012 in Belgrade, Serbia. The Congress is the main annual meeting of the Heart Failure Association of the European Society of Cardiology.