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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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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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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.

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Correspondence to H. Figard-Fabre.

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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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  • Obesity
  • Walking
  • Poles
  • Energy cost
  • Technique