TUESDAY, May 29, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- A popular European fitness routine called Nordic walking improves the health of heart failure patients, according to a small new study.
In Nordic walking, people walk with poles and move their arms in motions similar to those in cross-country skiing. This fast-growing form of exercise in Europe is safe for older patients.
Aerobic exercise improves heart failure patients' quality of life and reduces their risk of hospitalization, but many heart failure patients find it difficult to exercise.
The new study, which included 12 heart failure patients, concluded that Nordic walking enables these patients to boost safely the intensity of their exercise and to gain additional heart/lung benefits over normal walking.
The study findings were scheduled for presentation this month at the Heart Failure Congress in Belgrade, Serbia, which is the annual meeting of the Heart Failure Association of the European Society of Cardiology.
"In Nordic walking we have a big workload because we use additional muscle groups," lead author Andrzej Lejczak, a physiotherapist at the Military Hospital in Wroclaw, Poland, and a Ph.D. student at the University School of Physical Education in Wroclaw, said in an association news release.
"We walk with four limbs, so we're exercising our arms and legs at the same time -- that's why we have such a beneficial response," he explained.
The findings show that "Nordic walking is safe to include in cardiac rehabilitation programs for patients with heart failure," Lejczak added.
Because the study was very small and the findings were presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
The American Nordic Walking Association has more about Nordic walking.