A total of 166 women (50-69 years) were proportionally assigned into a Control, Nordic Walking (NW) or Recreational Walking (RW) group. Using the Urho Kaleva Kekkonen (UKK) walking test, measurements were collected before and after this 12-week study.
Overall outcomes indicated that:
NW is a secure, viable, and helpful form of physical training, improving several components of fitness in older adults.
NW is more effective at delivering cardiorespiratory benefits than RW.
NW is more effective in maintaining overall health and function.
NW can improve muscle strength, flexibility and aerobic endurance capacity. RW needs an additional muscular strength programme to make strength improvements.
NW had improved average heart rate (HR) explained by the muscular activity of upper body.
NW had an increase of 30.2% in VO2max versus a 23.39 % increase in RW.
However, this study contradicted the majority of studies complied in a systematic review and meta-analysis, and indicated that both NW and RW produced similar benefits. Possible reasons for this contradiction include:
The UKK test conditions specifies participants walk briskly during the 2-kilometre distance. In RW a rapid walking movement and higher gait speed is likely, whereas NW employs a fluid and greater range-of-motion (ROM) movement, possibly adding to the time to complete the test.
If the NW technique is weak and the poles do not push into the ground to instigate propulsion, the dynamic stability is compromised and movement is not as efficient and fast.
It is not stated if the UKK test was conducted in a straight line or on a circular track. Anecdotal testing has indicated that a circular track may be inhibiting to the NW technique.
A further consideration would be to have the NW group complete the pre and post UKK test, without poles, therefore eliminating any issues with technique.
This study concluded that NW group training resulted in slightly greater benefits than RW group training.
Summary by June Stevenson – INWA National Trainer New Zealand Medicine Certified Trainer, Sports Studies University of Otago, Auckland University of Technology (Graduate Diploma), Sports and Excercise