Proficiency in pole handling during Nordic walking influences exercise effectiveness in middle-aged and older adults.
School of Medical and Health Sciences / Exercise Medicine Research Institute
Nordic walking (NW) is a total body version of walking increasingly used as a health-promoting activity by middle-aged and older adults. The present study examined the relationship between force exerted through the pole and physiological response during NW. In this non-randomized exercise trial, 17 participants comprising 8 middle-aged and older recreationally trained Nordic walkers (NWrec: 63.7 ± 8.1 years) and 9 experienced NW instructors (NWinstr: 57.5 ± 7.8 years) underwent outdoor ordinary walking (OW) and NW bouts as fast as possible for 12 minutes. Walking distance, speed, heart rate (HR), energy expenditure (METs and J/kg/m) and upper and lower limb muscle activities using surface electromyogram (EMG) were assessed. A pole with a built-in load cell measured force applied to the pole with peak pole force, pole contact time, % of pole contact time with respect to the gait cycle, and pole impulse derived. We conducted two-way analysis of covariance adjusted for age and BMI. There was a significant group and walking type interaction for walking distance and speed (P = 0.04), METs (P < 0.01), and HR (P = 0.04) with higher values in the NWinstr group during NW than OW. As expected, upper limb EMG activities increased (P < 0.01) with NW in both groups. All pole force measures were significantly higher in NWinstr than NWrec (P ≤ 0.01). Change in walking distance and speed were correlated with pole peak force (r = 0.67, P < 0.01) and pole impulse (r = 0.63, P = 0.01). Similarly, change in METs was associated with peak pole force (r = 0.66, P < 0.01) and pole impulse (r = 0.56, P = 0.02). These results indicate that planting the pole on the ground more forcefully and for longer periods to derive a driving force in NW enhances the effectiveness of the exercise and potentially the health-derived benefits.
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