High-intensity interval training (HIIT) can improve your health, but is there a better workout than HIIT for the heart? A new study suggests there is.

If you want to improve your health through exercise, your mind may immediately go to running or high-intensity interval training (HIIT). However, a new study suggests that Nordic walking (an exercise that uses poles) may be especially helpful for heart health.

In fact, a recent study in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology suggests that Nordic walking may provide more heart benefits than HIIT. While HIIT workouts have been extensively studied, there are few studies examining the effects of Nordic walking on cardiac rehab patients.

“Our research showing the superior benefits of Nordic walking on functional capacity highlights an alternative exercise option that requires minimal cost and equipment to improve physical and mental health,” says senior author Dr. Jennifer Reed, director of exercise physiology and cardiovascular health at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute in Canada.

Using Your Whole Body

A Better Workout Than HIIT for the HeartWhile walking and running may only use 40% of your muscles, Nordic walking can use from 80% to 90% of your muscles when done properly. In their study, researchers had one group doing Nordic walking, another group doing moderate-to-vigorous training, and another one doing HIIT workouts. 

At the end of their training program, participants underwent six-minute walk tests to measure functional capacity. While all of the workouts improved depression and quality of life, Nordic walking did the best when it came to functional capacity.

“The six-minute walk test to measure functional capacity is an evidence-based and typically reproducible test,” says physician Dr. Jonathan H. Whiteson, associate professor of rehabilitation and medicine at NYU Langone Health in New York City. Whiteson was not involved in the study.

“However, as a walking test to measure improvements of different exercise regimens, it is important to recognize that training is task-specific, and so it is not such a surprise that the walking intervention, rather than the other two exercise interventions that did not focus only on walking, produced the greater increase.”

Whiteson also notes that to achieve an increase in functional capacity from Nordic walking, you have to do it vigorously. Because of the necessary effort, coordination, and balance, it may not be the best choice for everyone.

The Outlook

L-arginine PlusWhen it comes to choosing between HIIT and Nordic walking, the biggest takeaway is that exercise can improve your heart health. “There is no magic pill for health, but exercise is medicine that simultaneously targets multiple health conditions,” says Reed. “When it comes to physical activity, I like to say, ‘Some is better than none, and more is better than some.’”

In addition to exercise, you can boost your heart health through healthy eating and supplements like L-arginine Plus. Its ingredients promote circulation, blood pressure, cholesterol, and more. If you want to support your heart health, then start exercising regularly and take L-arginine Plus.