Nordic walking is also referred to in the literature below as fitness walking, walking poles, power poles, pole walking and exerstriding.
In many European countries, physicians have begun to prescribe Nordic walking for certain patients and in Germany the health benefits are believed to be so great that some health insurance providers pay for Nordic walking instruction.
Below are brief summaries of some of the clinical trials and studies conducted on walking poles. For more detailed information on any of this research, feel free to contact us.
Urban Poling Inc. encourages research evaluation of its products. For example, a study being initiated at the University of Western Ontario with the department of Kinesiology and Physiotherapy will evaluate the effect of walking with poles on knee joint loading in people with osteoarthritis.
A current study underway at Wilfrid Laurier University in the Kinesiology department is investigating the effectiveness of Urban Poling for residents of long-term care facilities. Participant’s balance, overall fitness, grip strength, and self-perceived health will be evaluated before and after an 8-week Urban Poling program.
There have been over 58 research studies (published, unpublished, thesis and pilot studies) on the use of walking poles according to Dr. Raija Laukkanen (2006) Review: Scientific evidence on Nordic walking.
Some of the studies include:
Stability, Balance and Posture
A study done at a Santa Barbara retirement community suggested that poling improved stability , mobility and posture for older adults (Afman, Baker & Miersma, 2005)
Average age of participants was over 80. Many participants were previous cane and walkers users.
Walker users should only use the Activator under the direction of a trained therapist.
A 2010 Swedish study (Mannerkorpi et al.) found that fibromyalgia patients who Nordic walked twice a week for 15 weeks showed a significantly greater improvement in the 6-minute walk test, a significantly larger decrease in exercise heart rate and significantly improved scores on the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire Physical Function scale as compared with a low-impact walking group. No changes noted for the pain scales or Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire total (reported in Arthritis Research & Therapy, 2010).
A study in 2006 from Texas Woman’s University, Denton, Texas, stated decreased balance is a major contributor to accidental falls in the elderly. It concluded that walking poles provided increased gait stability at both preferred and fast speeds in general by mainly increasing Maximum Attainable Base Of Stability (MABOS) (Kwon, Silver, Ryu, Yoon, Newton & Shim, 2006) (unpublished)
A study published in Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development found pole walking had a significant effect on the exercise tolerance of individuals with Parkinson’s Disease. Moreover, the results indicate that after only 8 weeks of pole walking, the health-related quality of life of the subjects improved (Baatile, Langbein, Weaver, Maloney & Jost, 2000).
Another study published in the official journal of the Movement Disorder Society found that Nordic walking may improve mobility in Parkinson’s disease (PD). Preliminary findings suggest that Nordic walking could provide a safe, effective, and enjoyable way to reduce physical inactivity in PD and to improve the quality of life (van Eijkeren, Reijmers, Kleinveld, Minten, Bruggen, Bloem. 2008)
Less Impact on Knee Joints
A study in 2001 found that walking poles enabled subjects to walk at a quicker speed with reduced vertical ground reaction forces, vertical knee joint reaction forces and greater supported movement. (Wilson et al., 2001)
Cardiovascular and caloric expenditure
The Cooper Institute assessed Nordic Walking and found a 20% increase in caloric expenditure and oxygen consumption compared to regular walking (Church, 2001)
A study at the University of Wisconsin concluded that Exerstrider showed greater psychological benefits and reduced fatigue compared to just walking (Stoughton, l992) (Thesis) .
Heart Failure Cardiac Rehab
A study of 54 patients with moderate to severe heart failure was conducted in 2008-2009 by the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. Patients were randomly assigned to usual care or Nordic pole walking for a period of 12 weeks. Researchers concluded that improvement in functional status was 14% greater in patients with moderate to severe heart failure assigned to Nordic pole walking versus usual cardiac rehabilitation care. The researchers go on to say that while results would have to be replicated in other studies, Nordic walking is a promising exercise modality for this patient population. (ML Keast, M Slovinec D’Angelo, B Reid, C Nelson unpublished)
The effort involved during Nordic Walking has also been investigated in coronary heart patients . All subjects had had either heart bypass or angioplasty operations or had suffered cardiac infarctions. During pole walking average energy consumption increased 21%, heart rate by 14 beats/minute and highest systolic/diastolic blood pressure figures by 16 and 4 mmHg respectively when compared with figures during normal walking. The research group concluded that pole walking is a safe form of rehabilitation for heart patients. (Walter, Porcari, Brice, Terry. Acute responses to using walking poles in patients with coronary artery disease. J Cardiopulm Rehabil Jul-Aug;16(4), 245-50, 1996.) A similiar study in Poland concluded that Nordic Walking is a purposeful activity for cardiac rehabilitation. (Wilk M, Kocur P, Przywarska I, Rozanska A, Owczarski T, Dylewicz P, 2005 (unpublished))
Older Sedentary Individuals
A study examining the benefits of NW on functions important to everyday life among older sedentary individuals in Virginia, USA included functional tests and a health questionaire. The results of all functional tests were statistically significantly better after training. (Parkatti T, Wacker P, Andrews N. – Functional capacity from Nordic Walking among elderly people. Seminar poster at University of Jyväskylä, Finland, 2002.)
In May 2010, the Canadian Physiotherapy Association published a recent study by researchers at McGill University. The study is the first to directly compare Nordic walking with traditional walking as a means of improving walking capacity. Thirty participants were randomized to either a Nordic Walking group (20 minutes of walking with the poles, twice a week) or a control group (walking for the same amount of time without the poles). Both groups walked with a physiotherapist. At the end of the trial, both groups had improved in distance walked, but Nordic Walking proved 125% more effective in improving gait speed compared to normal walking. (S Figueiredo, L Finch, M Jiali, S Ahmed, A Huang, and NE Mayo, May 2010)
Peripheral Arterial Disease
Published in Journal of Vascular Surgery, a clinical research study completed at Veterans Affairs Hospital concluded patients with claudication pain from peripheral arterial disease who pole walked regularly would benefit from improved cardiovascular fitness, increased exercise tolerance, lower perceived leg pain during moderate-intensity walking, improved skeletal muscle strength and endurance and better weight control. (Langbein, Collins, Orebaugh, Maloney, Williams, Littooy & Edwards, 2002).
Upper Extremity Strengthening for Breast Cancer Survivors
A study published at the University of Northern Colorado showed using walking poles for eight weeks significantly improved muscular endurance of the upper body in breast cancer patients following treatment (Sprod, 2003)