Nordic Walking May Be The Most Effective Workout For Heart Health, Says New Study
With every passing season, a new workout trend seems to emerge. From spinning to HIIT, boot camps to Pilates, there's always a new form of exercise that seems to be more effective than the last. Hot girl walks have taken the spotlight in recent months as social media's favorite form of exercise, but a new study has revealed that Nordic walking may actually be the best exercise for cardiovascular strength and better heart health, as compared to other workouts. Does "hot girl Nordic walking" have a ring to it, or is that just me?
What is Nordic walking?
Nordic walking is a low-impact cardiovascular workout that uses specially designed poles to help propel you along your walk and support your body as you traverse hills and uneven terrain. Just like all walks, this form of exercise suits varying levels of intensity, which will naturally alter the health benefits on your body. But although it's generally considered a low-impact workout, a new study published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology has shown that it is more effective in bolstering cardiovascular health than HIIT (which previously held the crown).
This 130-person study was conducted over the course of 26 weeks, comparing the impact of HIIT, Nordic walking, and moderate- to vigorous-intensity continuous training to see which was the most beneficial for patients with coronary artery disease. Functional capacity of the participants was measured with a walk test at the baseline, six weeks and 12 weeks to see how their respective exercise affected their health and quality of life, and at the end of the study it was Nordic walking participants that most significantly improved in both quality of life and the distance covered in their walking test.
Functional capacity, to clarify, is the participant's ability to complete general life activities, so pinpointing a form of exercise that supports this will naturally bolster quality of life and well-being as well. More specifically, participants who engaged in Nordic walking experienced a 19% improvement in functional capacity, while HIIT garnered a 13% improvement, and moderate-to-vigorous continuous training showed a 12% increase. Bottom line: Exercise is good for your health—a shock, we know.
Nordic walking may pose as a great form of cardiovascular exercise, but the results as they relate to the speed and distance of the walking test may be due to the nature of the exercise itself. The poles are intended to help improve your speed, so when practiced over an extended period of time (or the length of this study), it would stand to reason that this group of participants showed the most success in that area.
If you don't have a pair of poles readily available to take up Nordic walking, don't stress—walking without them is still a healthy option. However, if you do want to improve your cardiovascular well-being and overall quality of life, it may be worth looking into the investment to replace your next HIIT session or hot girl walk. As with all exercise, the intensity with which you push yourself will directly correlate to your results, and Nordic walking is no different.
Merrell Readman is the Associate Food & Health Editor at mindbodygreen. Readman is a Fordham University graduate with a degree in journalism and a minor in film and television. She has covered beauty, health, and well-being throughout her editorial career, and formerly worked at SheFinds. Her byline has also appeared in Women’s Health. In her current role, she writes and edits for the health, movement, and food sections of mindbodygreen. Readman currently lives in New York City.