Nordic Walking for geriatric rehabilitation

Nordic walking for geriatric rehabilitation: a randomized pilot trial

There is a need to identify effective interventions to promote walking capacity in seniors. This study compares nordic walking (NW) and usual overground walking (OW) and estimates the relative efficacy in improving walking capacity (endurance and gait speed) of the elderly. Method: Single blind, site-stratified, randomized, pilot trial designed to estimate the amount of change with NW and OW. Main outcomes were distance walked measured by 6-min walk test (6MWT) and comfortable gait speed measured by 5-meter walk test (5MWT). Explanatory variables were age, sex, number of comorbidities, walking aids, balance, pain, and leg function. Results: NW and OW participants improved, respectively, 45 and 41 m on 6MWT and increased their gait speed by 0.14 and 0.07 m/s, respectively. NW effect sizes were moderate for 6MWT (ES = 0.53) and large for gait speed (effect size (ES) = 0.68). OW demonstrated moderate effect size for 6MWT (ES = 0.53) but a small one for gait speed (ES = 0.33). Relative efficacy, which was obtained from the ratio of NW and OW effects’ sizes, was 1 for 6MWT and 2.06 for gait speed. Conclusions: NW is 106% more effective in improving gait speed among elderly than OW.

Implications for Rehabilitation
  • Elderly are the fastest growing segment of the population. With advanced age, greater number of disabilities, and consequently mobility limitations, are observed among this group.
  • Nordic walking is a more intensive form of walking, using muscles of upper and lower body. There’s evidence that nordic walking leads to greater cardiorespiratory workload without an increase in the level of exertion.
  • In this study, nordic walking was 106% more efficient than regular walking in improving gait speed among the elderly.
  • Clinicians specialized in geriatric rehabilitation may contribute to improve gait speed of seniors by adding nordic walking, a non-expensive and feasible option, to their physiotherapy sessions.