The British Heart Foundation has just published a worrying statistic. According to their analysis published in June 2023, on average, there have been over 500 additional deaths a week involving cardiovascular disease, since the Covid 19 pandemic began.
Heart and circulatory diseases already cause a quarter of all deaths in the UK. That’s more than 160,000 deaths each year – an average of 460 deaths each day. So this latest statistic is a worrying increase.
The good news is that by taking up an activity like Nordic walking you can reduce your risk of developing heart and circulatory diseases by as much as 35%.
Being active makes your heart physically stronger because your heart is a muscle. Exercise works and strengthens your heart just as it does other muscles in your body. It makes your heart wall healthier and increases the amount of blood your heart is able to pump with each beat. This improved efficiency allows your heart to beat slower, which in turn reduces your blood pressure.
According to the British Heart Foundation, around 50% of all heart attacks and strokes are associated with high blood pressure. It is one of the health risks that you can most easily change. Research shows that Nordic walking can improve your resting heart rate and your blood pressure.
Nordic walking can also help with peripheral arterial disease (PAD), where you get cramping, aching or pain in your legs or hips while walking. A study funded by the British Heart Foundation compared Nordic walking with regular walking for PAD patients and found that the Nordic walking group could quickly walk farther than the regular walking group and that their gains were greater over twelve weeks. A follow-up after one year showed that many participants kept on Nordic walking and that their maximum walking distance and speed continued to improve.
So, if you want a healthy heart and good circulation, a total body exercise like Nordic walking is ideal. It gets your heart rate up, the blood pumping around your body and the energy flowing from the tips of your fingers to the tops of your toes. The best news is that you can get the benefit of all of this without having to go crazy with effort or get hot and sweaty in a gym. With Nordic walking alone, all of these benefits can be yours and it’s something you can do while chatting to friends and enjoying the great outdoors.
If you have a diagnosed heart condition check with your doctor that it’s safe to take up Nordic walking and if there are any exercise restrictions. For instance, adding inclines such as hills may raise your heart rate too high and could be dangerous. You also need to keep track of your exercise intensity. Heart rate monitors may not give an accurate reading of how hard you are working as heart medication can artificially reduce your heart rate, so speak to an expert about what heart rate range you should be aiming for. Remember to never ignore pain, especially chest pain.
British Heart Foundation, UK Factsheet (2022), www.bhf.org.uk/-/media/files/research/ heart-statistics/bhf-cvd-statistics—uk-factsheet.pdf, accessed 5 December 2022
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L Cugusi, A Manca, TJ Yeo et al, ‘Nordic walking for individuals with cardiovascular disease: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials’, European Journal of Preventive Cardiology, 24/18 (2017), 1938–1955, http://doi.org/10.1177/2047487317738592
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