Although it has already been demonstrated that Nordic walking has some peculiar biomechanical features with respect to walking, the effects on balance and trunk coordination are still unknown. Our aim here was to compare margins of stability, hip stabilizer muscle activation and scapular-pelvis coordination (mean and variability of continuous relative phase) between walking and two different pole walking techniques (observational design). Eleven Nordic walking instructors were asked to walk at 5.5 km·h-1 on a flat treadmill while 1) walking, 2) Nordic walking and 3) pole walking with just elbow flexion-extension motion allowed and constrained shoulder motion (elbow technique). The 3D movements of limbs and poles were measured by an optoelectronic motion capture system, and gluteus medius activation was measured through surface electromyography. Both techniques using poles show larger mediolateral margins of stability and similar anterior-posterior margins of stability in comparison with walking (p < 0.001). The larger mediolateral margin of stability using poles (conditions 2 and 3) is accompanied by greater trunk coordination stability (greater continuous relative phase variability) than walking. Although the Nordic walking (condition 2) technique results in a similar range of scapular and pelvis transverse rotation, the general pattern of scapular-pelvis coordination was temporally delayed by approximately 20% of the gait cycle in relation to other conditions (1 and 3). In conclusion, Nordic walking provides enhanced mediolateral support and coordination stability of trunk compared with walking, suggesting that it could be proposed as a safer exercise modality than walking.
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