What About Walking Poles?

On my daily Chicago lakefront bike rides I see joggers, walkers, tourists, other cyclists, roller bladers,  you name it. A number of the walkers I see use what look like ski poles. They are out regularly and use the poles daily. I wondered what good they were.

Some web searching indicates that they have been around since 1988, yet remain relatively unknown. Tom Rutlin created the Nordic Walking method and brought the first commercial  walking poles to the U.S.

Dr. Edward R. Laskowski of the Mayo Institute writes, “Walking poles work your arms, shoulders, chest and upper back muscles through a functional range of motion as you walk — which can help you turn your daily walk into a full-body workout. This activity is sometimes called Nordic walking.

“Most walking poles have rubber tips that grab the pavement and wrist straps that secure the poles to your arms. With one walking pole in each hand, you grip the handles and push off with each stride. Sturdier walking poles designed for hiking are known as hiking or trekking poles.”

He offers the following as benefits of walking poles:
*“The arm movement associated with walking poles adds intensity to your aerobic workout, which  helps you burn more calories.
*”Walking poles improve balance and stability.
*”Walking poles help you maintain proper posture, especially in the upper back, and may help to strengthen upper back muscles.
*”Walking poles take some of the load off your lower back, hips and knees, which may be helpful if you have arthritis or back problems.”

Diane Lynn of the Livestrong Institute says, “A 2009 study published in the Clinical Rehabilitation Journal compared groups of men who walked with poles with those who did not. The study found that ‘lower body endurance, and dynamic balance were significantly better in the Nordic Walking group in comparison with the walking training and control groups.’ You improve your balance while walking with poles because the walking poles force you to move with good posture in an upright position, which trains your body and properly aligns your spine while in motion. This correct walking posture will improve your balance over time.

“Walking with poles also strengthens your core abdominal muscles, which are the muscles you use to lift, bend over and support yourself as you walk. When you use walking poles, you engage your abdominal muscles every time you lift and plant the poles in front of you and as you bring the poles back to front. This keeps your core muscles engaged throughout your entire walk. You will not only feel the difference as you exercise, but over time you may also see a difference in the appearance of your abdominal muscles,” Lynn writes.

I think these are really worthwhile reasons for checking out the poles. I have written about the benefits of walking a number of times. You can check out The Benefits of Walking. I also have a Page – Why You Should Walk More – for further details.

Walking is a wonderful weight-bearing exercise that is worth your time. Walking in any form is super for seniors.


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Filed under aging, Exercise, walking, walking poles

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