Background Exercise is the cornerstone of rehabilitation programmes for individuals with cardiovascular disease (IwCVD). Although conventional cardiovascular rehabilitation (CCVR) programmes have significant advantages, non-conventional activities such as Nordic walking (NW) may offer additional health benefits. Our aim was to appraise research evidence on the effects of Nordic walking for individuals with cardiovascular disease. Design Systematic review and meta-analysis. Methods A literature search of clinical databases (PubMed, MEDLINE, Scopus, Web of Science, Cochrane) was conducted to identify any randomized controlled trials, including: (i) individuals with cardiovascular disease, (ii) analyses of the main outcomes arising from Nordic walking (NW) programmes. Data from the common outcomes were extracted and pooled in the meta-analysis. Standardized mean differences (SMDs) were calculated and pooled by random effects models. Results Fifteen randomized controlled trials were included and eight trials entered this meta-analysis. Studies focused on coronary artery disease, peripheral arterial disease, heart failure and stroke. In coronary artery disease, significant differences between NW+CCVR and CCVR were found in exercise capacity (SMD: 0.49; p = 0.03) and dynamic balance (SMD: 0.55; p = 0.01) favouring NW+CCVR. In peripheral artery disease, larger changes in exercise duration (SMD: 0.93; p < 0.0001) and oxygen uptake (SMD: 0.64; p = 0.002) were observed following NW compared with controls. In heart failure, no significant differences were found between NW and CCVR or usual care for peak VO2 and functional mobility. In post-stroke survivors, functional mobility was significantly higher following treadmill programmes with poles rather than without (SMD: 0.80; p = 0.03). Conclusions These data portray NW as a feasible and promising activity for individuals with cardiovascular disease. Further studies are necessary to verify whether NW may be incorporated within CCVR for individuals with cardiovascular disease.
Keywords: Nordic walking; cardiovascular disease; exercise capacity; polestriding.