A Better Way To Walk: Nordic Walking Improves Quality of Life, Depression, and Functional Capacity

Nordic walking, also known as pole walking, requires more effort to be applied to the poles with each step than conventional walking does. Upper body muscles are stimulated more during Nordic walking than they are during regular walking, which may cause considerable increases in heart rate at a given speed. When compared to walking without poles, it has been reported that Nordic walking may increase energy consumption by over 40%.

A recent study published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology shows that Nordic walking is superior to other kinds of exercise in cardiovascular rehabilitation for improving long-term functional capacity

In comparison to standard high-intensity interval training and moderate-to-vigorous intensity continuous training, researchers found that Nordic walking in patients with coronary heart disease resulted in a greater improvement in functional capacity, or the ability to carry out activities of daily living. Their randomized clinical trial’s findings have recently been published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology.

Following severe cardiovascular events, cardiovascular rehabilitation and exercise training programs are linked to significant gains in functional ability, cardiorespiratory fitness, and mental health. However, some people find monotonous exercises like stationary cycling and walking to be boring and may quit working out after their cardiovascular rehabilitation program is over. In order to find out whether they might encourage more people to keep exercising and what advantages might be obtained, researchers looked at more appealing workout choices that would appeal to a wider audience.

A growing body of research indicates that non-standard exercise interventions, such as Nordic walking and high-intensity interval training, are superior to conventional exercise methods for increasing functional capacity as evaluated by the six-minute walk test, a key indicator of cardiovascular events in people with coronary artery disease. Nordic walking is a more advanced kind of walking exercise that employs poles with specialized designs to better involve the muscles in both the upper and lower body.

“Patients with coronary artery disease frequently demonstrate diminished functional capacity, low quality of life, and increased the risk of subsequent cardiovascular events and mortality,” explained lead investigator Jennifer L. Reed, Ph.D., Exercise Physiology and Cardiovascular Health Lab, Division of Cardiac Prevention and Rehabilitation, University of Ottawa Heart Institute; Faculty of Medicine; and School of Human Kinetics, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, ON, Canada.

Investigators compared the prolonged effects of 12-week rehabilitation with 1) high-intensity interval training; 2) moderate-to-vigorous intensity continuous training; and 3) Nordic walking, on functional capacity, quality of life, and depression symptoms in patients with coronary artery disease. One hundred and thirty patients were randomized to a 12-week training in one of these three groups followed by a 14-week observation phase.

While all exercise programs improved depression symptoms and quality of life, the improvement in functional capacity was greatest after Nordic walking (+19%) when compared to high-intensity interval training (+13%) and moderate-to-vigorous intensity continuous training (+12%).

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

“No previous study has directly compared the long-term effects of high-intensity interval training, moderate-to-vigorous intensity continuous training, and Nordic walking,” commented Tasuku Terada, Ph.D., Exercise Physiology and Cardiovascular Health Lab, Division of Cardiac Prevention and Rehabilitation, University of Ottawa Heart Institute, Ottawa, ON, Canada.

“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. When prescribing exercise for patients with coronary artery disease, patients’ preferences should be considered. Our findings can impact patient care by providing alternative exercise options based on their interests and needs,” he concluded.

In an accompanying editorial, Carl J. Lavie, MD, Department of Cardiovascular Diseases, John Ochsner Heart and Vascular Institute, Ochsner Clinical School, the University of Queensland School of Medicine, New Orleans, LA, USA, and colleagues noted that the addition of Nordic walking to a cardiovascular rehabilitation program could provide an ideal progression from standard moderate-intensity continuous training or traditional walking, especially for deconditioned patients who may not tolerate the high-intensity exercise, or for patients in whom high-intensity interval training may be contraindicated.

“The addition of Nordic poles to moderate to vigorous intensity walking is a simple, accessible option to enhance improvements in walking capacity, increase energy expenditure, engage upper body musculature, and improve other functional parameters such as posture, gait, and balance,” commented Dr. Lavie.

“Providing a variety of exercise options enhances patient enjoyment and progression, which is important for adherence and maintenance. Exercise modalities should be prescribed with consideration of patient goals, preferences, and capabilities,” he advised.

The study was funded by the Academic Health Sciences Centres of the Ministry of Ontario, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

Reference: “Sustained Effects of Different Exercise Modalities on Physical and Mental Health in Patients With Coronary Artery Disease: A Randomized Clinical Trial” by Tasuku Terada, Ph.D., Lisa M. Cotie, Ph.D., Heather Tulloch, Ph.D., Matheus Mistura, MSc, Sol Vidal-Almela, MSc, Carley D. O’Neill, Ph.D., Robert D. Reid, Ph.D., Andrew Pipe, MD and Jennifer L. Reed, Ph.D., 14 June 2022, Canadian Journal of Cardiology.
DOI: 10.1016/j.cjca.2022.03.017

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  • Pete

    The suggestion that nordic walking has a significantly higher efficacy than interval or sustained exercise is extremely compelling. However, there is an absence of even the most basic information regarding the research methodologies and research funding. Readers are left wondering if the study valid and/or reliable. Readers would greatly benefit from information such as the number of participants in each group, the raw numbers regarding outcomes, commentary of the statistical significance of the results and the nature of the study, whether it be a double blind, interventional and/or observational study. The other vital piece of information that readers are the sources of funding for the study and any conflicts of interest declared by researchers.

    • Feudi

      Click on the link to the study

      • Synda Wilson.

        Cooper Aerobic Institute in Dallas Texas has specific research and numbers around walking with Nordic walking sticks or poles (equipment like this)

      • BamBam

        Feudi I want to marry you. Intelligence is refreshing.

    • Zoe

      Pete I want to marry you. Intelligence is refreshing.

    • Roger

      The link provided in this SciTechDaily article to the original paper is only a very brief summary of the article, with little detail. The study itself is behind a pay wall. I found another summary that provides substantially more information:

      https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0828282X22002136

      I’ve just started Nordic Walking. If you’ve ever hiked with trekking poles, the concept is similar. I found that trekking poles greatly extended my range in the rugged Sierra Nevada of California. My recovery from the strenuous hike was much quicker with less pain. It increased my confidence and safety on rocky terrain and when fording streams. As for Nordic Walking, I found it far more engaging than walking without the poles. The poles have a way of propelling you forward more, quickening your pace, as well as engaging the upper body.

  • NS

    A brief explanation of “Nordic walking” would be very helpful.

  • David Cooper

    Makes me want to break out my old wood Nordic Track!

    • chris kliemt

      I see brands have a big effect on you. How bout just hitting the local woods for an hour hike?

  • Bob Hunnicutt

    LOL

  • Janie

    Nonsense
    Exercise is exercise Walking is walking.
    Your blood line has nothing to do with it.

  • tenner

    I’m with NS. A brief explanation of what in the world Nordic walking is would be super helpful. Lol!

  • Donna

    I have issue with a couple ideas stated in this article. You wrote, “However, some people find boring exercises like stationary cycling and walking to be boring and may quit working out after their cardiovascular rehabilitation program is over.”

    It’s a bit biased for a reporter to refer to stationary cycling and walking as “boring,” (let alone driving that point home by using that word twice in one sentence). Many people find those activities enjoyable, or at least not any more boring than other forms of exercise.

    I especially find it amusing that you referred to walking as being boring! When walking, you can enjoy nature and other sights. If you’re a dog owner, walking is extra fun, because you can share in the joy your dog exhibits as he: barks at squirrels; is puzzled by yard decorations that neighbors display; and memorizes and understands the normal routes/paths you take.

    It’s especially ironic that you think walking is boring while you’re singing the praises of Nordic Skiing. Wait, not skiing. Oh, yeah, Nordic WALKING!

  • Md

    I googled what is Nordic Walking.

  • Pauline

    Walking also improves quality of life, depression and functional capacity. I might be boring but i’m Sixty and I took my walk almost every day of my life. To make matters even more boring, for others that is, I live in the exact house where I was born. 😊

    • Rick

      Yup, still living in the same house you were born in would be very boring to me, but to each his/her own. Wishing you continued good health.

  • Ricky Dixon

    Only thing missing to completely lose my interest is adding a couple of acronyms, maybe NWWC? We live at sea level so no mountains, guess i will hope for the best walk normally, maybe quickly.

  • Not you

    *Searches YouTube for Nordic walking*

  • Herb

    There’s no way I’m going to use the little walking sticks when I walk. It looks ridiculous.

  • Brian

    Does anyone remember heavy hands? That’s exactly what this is. Based on the physical fitness studies done of cross-country skiers it was determined that the use of the hands (with ski poles) improved the cardiovascular system better than just walking, even over running in some instances. This is nothing new.

  • Alex

    Why not explain what the heck it is and how to do it, at least a little bit? Now we are forced to Google something that could have been explained right here.

  • BOBBY BURNS

    I agree with Donna – walking doesn’t have to be “boring” nor is it, really. And the use of that word twice in the same sentence was grammatically awkward, by the way. Sketchy editing…

  • Ken

    So what is Nordic walking?

  • Rochelle Thomas-Edwards

    What is Nordic Walking?

  • Woralux

    How to walk “Nordic walking”? It would be help me to understand what is Nordic Walk.

  • Mansour Ahmadi

    That was incredible to me to lose 2kg each time I walk 10 km. I didn’t even heighten my heart beat by fast walking and tackled that distance in 2 hrs. The tranquility and freshness you receive afterwards is an extra reward to your efforts.

  • Alfred

    I am 61 years old & I have Avascular Necrosis. I have had both of my knees AND both of my hips replaced. Ugh! My equilibrium is now a mess, because I don’t have any sensors in my hips & knees.
    I bought Hiking Poles on Amazon & yes! They are awesome! They help keep me balanced and able to maintain a walking stride. I recommend them!

  • Lisa

    While I am an seasoned walker I got nothing from this article. No explanation of what Nordic walking is! Only that it has something to do with poles!

  • Steve

    Not everyone can go to Norway and walk

  • Steve

    Not everyone can go to Norway and walk!

  • Kathy

    I quit Nordic walking because it aggravated my carpel tunnel candition. Nordic walking, which is popular in Canada and Europe is also called urban poling. If you do it properly and with the right poles it gives an upper body workout that walking without the poles doesn’t achieve.

  • Mike

    OK…WTF is NW?

  • Barbara Krall

    If I see ONE MORE ARTICLE about how beneficial of any type of walking is for older people I’m gonna scream! The white elephant in the room is that older people are the most likely to have knee, hip and other joint problems. And when your weight-bearing joints are out of commission, you aren’t going to be able to go walking like you used to — until you have knee or hip replacement surgery. Virtually all the articles completely ignore this. Walking / hiking / dancing / cross country skiing and other weight-bearing exercises are great — until your joint(s) wears out.

  • S Mac

    As stated in the article, nordic walking is using poles for upper body and core strenghtening. Apparently, is pretty standard way to go walking in nordic countries. I have seen people employing this method.

  • Samuel

    Was this study funded by Leki, a major maker of Nordic poles?

  • Zoe

    Pete,I want to marry you. Intelligence is refreshing.

  • Knell Barrow

    How stupid.
    The white way is the right way?
    Humans evolve over time to adapt to their environment.
    Slap this “journalist”.
    What a waste.
    Maybe next time give us a theory about Betsy DeVos. What she’s doing now is way more compelling. No one’s really talking about it, although everyone should.
    There’s your scoop. You might even make the cover of some prominent magazine.
    You’re welcome.

  • Carly

    I just googled Nordic walking and it’s people walking with a ski stick in each hand! Not sure how practical this is . The poles looked pretty long. I can see this if you are hiking in hills but it looks like it could be detrimental to elderly folks recovering from heart issues. I’m sure ski poles are expensive. Just look for a long limb in the woods !

  • Kevin

    Nords are historically and perpetially depresed due to their climate location. They deal with it.

  • Eddie H.

    Hey Donna, the neighbors can also be amused when your dog dumps on their lawn. Anyway, any exercise is better than no exercise. The whole Nordic thing would be cool.

  • rr

    Let’s see the healthy people are now Nordics? Nordic diet and Nordic walking, sounds like 1930s Germany headlines.

  • Wendy

    These “science” articles are at a
    30,000 ft elevation overview. How about some specifics that could be applicable to our everyday life. It seems like you had to get this article done for a deadline and didn’t delve very deep.
    Thank you!

  • Brandy

    STEVE…
    LMAO. I needed that kind of humor. I almost bought a plane ticket after that article. Lol.
    Just google it people, sheesh !

  • Ell AnHab Sidney

    Just asking??? Would any of the named researchers in this Study have “Shares” in the Nordic Walking Machine companies? I agree that most all exercise methods are beneficial in small doses to humans. I have never visited a medical doctor or injested big pharma drugs into my very human body in all my 47 years on Earth. I never had a sick day ever; been around every strain of known diseases contagious to humans..even the Covid 19 as contrived by world liberal democratic leaders, rich business men/women, and big pharma to push their supressive new world order agenda on humans. The Canadian Journal of Cardiology (CJC) article, I believe is compiled with some “honest” intent; but another study by CJC should be compiled on the effects of big pharma’s Covid 19 vaccines on the human cardio. These covid vaccines are laced with formaldehyde. (If CJC compiles this study; government and donor funding will cease). Formaldehyde is a known gas that causes heart disease i.e arrhythmia, myocardial infraction; and who knows what other heart impacts. These vaccines are pushed by world leaders who really are Dictators with intent to soften and supress world Humans. Nice try…but now they are exposed! No longer are humans going to mask up…follow fake science, or listen to world corrupt, lying Dictators. Supression is worst than dying.

    • Phil

      I think your writing is beyond needing spellcheck. It is in dire need of braincheck.

  • Like2fly

    Kind of ironic that some commentor who is a covid-hoaxer (and exactly WHY did the liberals “make it up?”) reads SciTechDaily. Some people just can’t take the tin hat off, even for a minute.

  • Rob

    Kevin, people living in Nordic countries are LITERALLY ranked the happiest in the world…consistently!! For the folks complaining about the writer labeling walking and other common forms of exercise as “boring”; perhaps the intent was to frame Nordic walking as something new that might motivate folks to exercise who otherwise would not…because those particular individuals might actually find walking mundane. Also, for the folks complaining about the article’s failure to describe what Nordic Walking is….seriously we are ALL literally on a phone or computer with a Google search just a few finger movements away. Stop being lazy and stop complaining about the lack of perfection you perceive from a body of work. Even if you were given ALL the details about everything related to this study, and Nordic Walking was explained with pictures and bullet pointed instructions, most of us would do absolutely nothing different than we would have done if it were “perfect.” Okay, now all the haters can go hate on the next article that’s not up to their quintessential standard while still do nothing with their lives but spreading negativity. For everyone else, Namaste❤️

  • Coyoty

    Nordic walking is walking with ski poles.

  • Glenn Edward Brown

    So is it inferring that it suggests that Nordic Walking is similar to cross country skiing or snow shoe hiking interms of increasing work capacity?
    Which those sports at world class sports levels have athletes that are the most all around fit in terms of body strength and cardiovascular capacity

  • Deborah Hoopes

    Right on Rob!! After reading all these comments…which I felt some were just plain ignorant. Did they even read the article..and the writer said “some” people may find walking as an exercise boring ..love the people that wanna jump all over that one comment. This was about a study and about a way for people to walk that can help with cardiovascular disease and to be able to have something to help oossible relieve pain in your knees. Why do people always seem to want to just be so incredibly negative? Geeze..If you read the article either just go Humm.. interesting maybe I’ll research it a bit more and try it …or… go humm doesn’t sound like my cup of tea I’ll stick with regular walking..because I don’t like to consider new options!!!!!

  • Leaf Eating Carnivore

    Honestly, Donna and Bobby (and your ilk) – is EVERYTHING always about you and your views??? As Deborah H pointed out, the authors pointed to SOME people, which is not a blanket statement. Useless comment, whole lotta misdirected smarm. I sincerely hope you each find a better life.

  • Kathleen

    I wish I could find the article I read about a year ago about Nordic walking. I really didn’t know exactly what it was. The article included a great video of someone Nordic walking, side view, and my recollection is that it looked like a really big workout and required a good deal of coordination. The poles were very long. I’ve gotten quite debilitated from a long-term serious infection, but if I can get walking again, I’d love to try Nordic walking. I’m in my 70s and I’m not sure I’m being realistic at this point because I’m so de-conditioned

    • Phil

      Go for it and use the poles immediately. At a slow pace you will get your fitness back and the poles will help your balance with the first step on your road to recovery. Good luck!

  • Salem

    I hate to be that person but I half agree half disagree with this article. I suffer from multiple comorbid diseases some of which affect my cardiovascular system, my blood pressure, my heart rhythm, and my heart strength. That’s just a drop in the bucket of the compounding issues I deal with. If doctors here in the United States would be intelligent enough to understand that the opioid crisis was caused by primarily individuals that had no business being on opiates in the first place mixed with a staggering amount of healthcare professionals being addicted to them. (You can look it up, nurses and healthcare workers are 30 times more likely to use opiates when they don’t need to) anyways, if they would actually listen to patients who desperately need pain management such as myself, I could absolutely go back to walking which was the only thing that I was able to do to improve my health when I was on pain medication. But, since they took that away in 2013, I haven’t been able to do any sort of meaningful exercise in 9 years. I would be absolutely ecstatic if policies would change and doctors would actually update their education and intelligence on the matter.

  • Lydia

    Hmmmm? Can’t you just SWING your ARMS while walking ?

  • Exercising Will

    To the poor souls who are so physically compromised that walking, much less Nordic-ly, is too much: I’d encourage you to look into electric bikes. It’s shocking how many people in their 50’s – 70’s have become active for the first time in decades through e-biking. They’re non-athletes doing 10+ miles every day and having a ton of fun. It seems it’s easy to get up to that level, too. Because they’re riding electric bikes, they can put in as little or as much effort as they want. It’s no surprise they’re happy. They’re mobile again, outside in the fresh air, getting some sun – things they didn’t think possible until they tried it out. Fwiw. I know it’s hard when you’re body refuses to act right.
    Best wishes in finding solutions to overcome barriers to better health & happiness – to one and all.

  • Lori

    Well 1 pole and swinging around on it can build upper body strength and help with balance ( make sure pole is stabalized )and build muscle. But back to the Nordic sticks. It is a known fact that it increases all the article says. Because it has you using more of your CORE strengths and and muscles in your arms and your pecks. Older Ladies can use that help. But if you walk your dog u might not want to be using any kind of walking stick or u could get pulled over if a sudden varmint were to appear and excite your pupper. Of course unless u have a place where u can walk your dog safely without a leash.
    My mama is 94 and has what u call her moses stick. Lol
    Its as tall as her, 5″3 and has a few curves in it but overall sturdy. She likes that i call it that because it boists her confidence in being old as moses. Lol
    Stay happy and healthy everyone. And don’t be so hard on the covid person. Ive been exposed i don’t know how many times but the first 2 that had everyone around me sick and even lost one, i never had any serious symptoms. Low grade fever and my legs hurt. That was it. Tested negative twice. And had only 1 Moderna. It made me sick. I have family members that had vaccines and got it again. And 1 that had it bad, never got a vaccine and recently had it again. The masks don’t work! It is a highly contagious viral disease. It is airborn is why its so dangerous. But it is a DNA targeted disease. Just like in the beginning they found that blood type A were more susceptible. Have you ever googled the i ingredients on .gov ?
    Last time i tried it says it wasn’t available. But you can still find them. Putting a protein on top of your natural immunity to fool the covid protein may be a way to slow thus monster down. But in all reality it is luck of the draw on your blood type, overall health and well being. Take good vitamins such as c d3 b12 or b50, zinc and magnesium daily. Eat healthy and loose weight if your heavy. If u feel bad stay home so u don’t risk others. But there are some people that are not immuno compromised from this disease, fact!
    Did you know that not everyone can get HIV? Bet most of you didn’t. Educate yourself!
    Stay safe, stay well and don’t let your government run your life, think and educate yourself. They work for you not you for them.
    ✅😎🙋‍♀️

  • Kaci Oswald

    Pete, Bam Bam, and Zoe… Trinity Marriage. All of that refreshing intelligence has me stuck on thoughts of Happily Ever After.

  • Dogbrain

    Ridiculous article. So much verbage I scrolled most of it, yet not one word or photo to explain what it is. You are simply talking to those who already use the exercise. No point to article.

  • Nina

    You know I actually saw a YouTube video the other day of an elder who was about a hundred years old and she was using two regular smooth sticks one was taller than the other I guess because she couldn’t find them both at the same size and she walked around with two sticks not crutches not one cane not a walker she walked around with two sticks so I think that this type of walking has been around longer than we think but thank you for posting. I actually prefer walking with two sticks that is so cool didn’t know that it was a thing LOL