Walking Poles Yes or No
Have you ever thought about purchasing some walking poles? What are they good for? Do you really need them? In this post we will look at the benefits of using them.
More and more people are starting to realise the benefits of using walking poles while out hiking. Walking with poles gives you added confidence and stability. It is 4 wheel drive for your body. There are 3 good reasons why you should use walking poles. Support and Stability, Reduced Effort and Propulsion.
SUPPORT AND STABILITY – Walking with poles offers a permanent handrail providing extra support and balance particularly on uneven ground, steep ground or for those who need extra confidence, particularly at the end of a long days hiking. Once you get used to using poles you are much more secure on all rough terrain and they are great on snowy winter walks, although not to be used in place of an ice axe!
REDUCED EFFORT – Using walking poles help reduce effort to keep you going longer, and scientific evidence indicates the reduction of impact on knee and hip joints. Using poles can reduce the stress placed on joints, ligaments and muscles. Walking with poles can spread the burden of weight carried and they can also benefit your posture while walking, improving breathing and reducing the feel of the effort, or ‘perceived exertion’. If you develop a good technique when using your poles, bringing the shoulder joint into play rather than just the elbows, this helps to reduce the impact on the elbows and spreads the load to bigger muscle groups; this in turn reduces your perception of how hard you are working so you can get on with enjoying your walk.
PROPULSION – Using the poles to ‘push off’ from the ground as you move is a technique used to increase your forward motion. This is used increasingly by fell runners, adventure racers and of course in Nordic Walking which mimics the action of cross-country skiers, bringing very nearly all of the body’s muscles into play, and delivering an extremely effective workout.
They also work well for keeping fit as you are using more upper body muscles than when walking without poles.
USING WALKING POLES
Walking poles are used to give both support and propulsion; using the pole strap and handle correctly and setting your pole to the right length, are the first steps to using trekking poles effectively. (Please note that walking poles and trekking poles are the same thing)
Using the pole strap and handle correctly – Open the strap and adjust the size of the loop so that you can just get your hand up through it. Pass your hand up through the loop, open your hand and then grip over the strap and handle together. In this way the strap and handle work together to provide the best combination of support and versatility. You can easily reach forward, say down a steep incline, or push back, for example when leaping a stream, and still remain in contact with the pole and supported by the strap.
Setting the correct height of your trekking poles – When your walking pole is set at the correct height for you and you are holding the handle of the pole with the tip on the ground, your elbow should be bent at about 90 degrees. Some people prefer a slightly longer pole, some prefer it shorter. Try different heights until you find a height that suits you for the majority of walking conditions you encounter. Most people set their poles between 115cm and 125cm.
Who could benefit from using walking or trekking poles?
People who could benefit from the use of trekking poles include those who…
- hike regularly for fitness and enjoyment;
- walk distance on challenging terrain;
- do hilly walks with a steep ascents/decent;
- carry heavy backpacks;
- have ankle,knee or hip problems;
- want the confidence of a hand rail;
- want to develop upper body strength;
- want to use their whole body to move faster when walking or running.
Should I use one walking pole or two?
Generally speaking, if you’re travelling easy terrain with no load, one pole may be sufficient. If, however, you’re travelling varied terrain or carrying a load, you’ll want the support and stability that two poles will provide you. When using a pair of poles you can take advantage of all of the benefits of using poles, including the increase in fitness that develops as a response to using your whole body to hike or run, as opposed to just your legs.