• Coronary artery disease occurs when plaque builds up in the blood vessels that help deliver oxygen and nutrients to the heart.
  • Physical activity is essential to improve function and quality of life for people with coronary artery disease.
  • A study found that Nordic walking is a type of exercise that can be particularly helpful.

The heart is an essential organ for life because it pumps blood, oxygen and necessary nutrients throughout the body. The heart can experience many problems that affect its ability to function. One of these problems is coronary artery disease. Researchers are constantly striving to understand how to best improve the health of people with coronary heart disease.

A study published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology examined the impact of different types of exercise in participants with coronary heart disease. The authors found that all types of exercise studied were beneficial, but Nordic walking provided the most significant benefit.

Physical activity is an essential component of health, including cardiovascular health. The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, explained in a recent blog post what follows:

Physical activity is fundamental to overall health and well-being, but sadly overlooked in most of our daily lives. In addition to maintaining good nutrition and emotional health, incorporating regular physical activity can help prevent several chronic diseases and improve the chances of better outcomes if you become ill from various conditions.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that “coronary heart disease (CAD) is the most common type of heart disease in the United States.” Coronary artery disease occurs when plaque builds up and clogs the walls of the arteries that supply blood to the heart.

Sometimes one of the first indicators of CAD is when someone is having a heart attack. After suffering a heart attack, someone can work with medical professionals through cardiac rehabilitation. Cardiac rehabilitation often involves elements of physical activity to help improve heart health.

Generally, the processing for CAD may involve practicing a heart-healthy lifestyle, including physical activity. Other things involved in treating coronary artery disease can include weight and stress management, heart-healthy eating, and quitting smoking. Experts are still working to understand which types of exercise are most beneficial in the short and long term.

The study in question involved 130 participants with coronary artery disease who had previously been referred to a cardiovascular rehabilitation (CR) program. The participants followed a 12-week exercise program. The researchers then followed up for 14 weeks. Participants were involved in one of three different types of exercise programs:

  • high intensity interval training (HIIT)
  • moderate-to-vigorous intensity continuous training (MICT)
  • Nordic’s walk

Dr. Chip Lavie, who edited the journal’s accompanying editorial, explained the differences between these types of exercises for DTM:

Nordic walking is an improved form of walking exercise that uses specially designed poles to further engage upper and lower body muscles. Moderate-to-vigorous intensity continuous training (MICT) is steady, sustained walking at moderate to high exercise heart rates without the use of poles. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is exercise such as walking very briskly without the use of the poles for a few minutes at very high heart rates and then recovering to a slow heart rate repeated several times.

The researchers assessed the participants functional capacity, which has to do with the maximum effort a person can put into physical activity. But the researchers went further and looked at the impact of these different types of exercise on quality of life and symptoms of depression.

Study results revealed that all exercise interventions had a positive impact on all three domains: functional capacity, quality of life, and symptoms of depression. However, those in the Nordic walking group experienced the most benefit, as Nordic walking increased functional ability the most.

The study authors noted that past research has often focused on more immediate outcomes of cardiovascular rehabilitation. However, their study had a longer follow-up time, allowing for even greater data collection.

The study had several limitations. First, they note that their participants maintained physical activity levels after the initial 12-week period of programmed exercise programs. But other data has shown that physical activity levels may decline in people with coronary artery disease after completing cardiovascular rehabilitation. Thus, the authors of this study conclude that future research should focus more on the long-lasting benefits of different types of exercise.

Second, the same center recruited all participants. Finally, the study only included a small number of women, so they cannot generalize the results. Overall, the results demonstrate the importance of physical activity on heart health. And more and more people with coronary artery disease can incorporate Nordic walking as a great exercise option.

Dr. Lavie noted the following for DTM:

Adding Nordic poles to moderate-to-vigorous intensity walking is a simple and accessible option to improve walking ability, increase energy expenditure, engage upper body musculature, and improve other functional parameters such as posture, gait and balance. improve walking speed.