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Physiological and perceptual responses to Nordic walking in obese middle-aged women in comparison with the normal walk

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Abstract

This study aimed to compare physiological and perceptual responses to Nordic walking (NW) in obese women to those of walking (W), and to assess if these responses were modified by a learning period of NW technique. Eleven middle-aged obese women completed exercise trials (5 min each) at 4 km/h, inclinations of −5, 0 and +5%, with and without poles. Ventilation \( \left( {\mathop V\limits^{.}}_{\text{E} } \right), \) oxygen consumption \((\dot{V}_{{{\text{O}}_{{\text{2}}}}})\) energy cost (EC), heart rate (HR), rating of perceived exertion (RPE) and cycle length were measured before and after a 4-week learning period (12 sessions). \({\mathop V\limits^{.}}_{\text{E} } ,\dot{V}_{{{\text{O}}_{{\text{2}}}}} , \) EC, HR and cycle length were significantly higher (P < 0.001) during NW trials than W trials. RPE was significantly diminished (pole × inclination interaction, P = 0.031) when using NW poles compared to W uphill. Significant pole × inclination interactions were observed for \(\dot{V}_{{{\text{O}}_{{\text{2}}}}} \) (P = 0.022) and EC (P = 0.022), whereas significant pole × time interaction was found for EC (P = 0.043) and RPE (P = 0.039). Our results confirmed that use of NW poles increased physiological responses at a given speed but decreased RPE in comparison with W during inclined level. Moreover, this is the first study showing that a learning period of NW technique permitted to enhance the difference between EC with NW poles versus the W condition and to decrease the RPE when using NW poles. Thus, although it requires a specific learning of the technique, the NW might be considered like an attractive physical activity with an important public health application.

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Acknowledgments

The authors gratefully acknowledge Tiina Arrankoski and Tuomo Kettunen, two international NW coaches of the INWA, for their practical advice during the elaboration of the NW lessons; Dr Franco M. Impellizzeri for providing helpful comments on the statistical part of this article; Rina Culora for the linguistic revision of the manuscript; and the subjects who volunteered to participate in this investigation.

Author information

Correspondence to H. Figard-Fabre.

Additional information

Communicated by Fausto Baldissera.

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Figard-Fabre, H., Fabre, N., Leonardi, A. et al. Physiological and perceptual responses to Nordic walking in obese middle-aged women in comparison with the normal walk. Eur J Appl Physiol 108, 1141–1151 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-009-1315-z

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Keywords

  • Obesity
  • Walking
  • Poles
  • Energy cost
  • Technique