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Wellness Check

Walking with Poles – Build Up Your Balance

Feb 2022 | By Catherine Daley

Increase your stability when walking and gain upper body strength

Walking poles help to improve your balance and stability when out and about. Not only that, but they help you to maintain proper posture so that you’re walking in a more-upright position, and they may help to strengthen your upper back muscles. In addition, walking poles take some of the load off of your joints and lower back, especially if have arthritis or back problems. 

Trekking through the countryside

Walking with a Pole Gives StabilityIf you’re planning a walking holiday, especially if your daily walks will be long and hilly, the use of walking poles will help to reduce the accumulated stress on your feet, legs and back by sharing the load more evenly across your whole body. 

When walking uphill, the poles offer extra power and help with your balance. When going downhill, there’s no doubt that they will help to protect your knees from the impact of walking, and you may find that you gain speed. When it comes to uneven terrain or walking on cobbles, the extra two points of contact will boost your confidence, and help to alleviate pressure, especially if you’re feeling fatigued towards the end of your walk. 

When travelling with walking poles, make sure that they can be shortened or folded, and check with your airline to see if they can be taken into the cabin. 

The benefits of walking with poles

  • Upper body assistance with overall strength 
  • Improved endurance and speed 
  • Balance and stability are enhanced on uneven terrain 
  • Shock absorption: reduces impact on hips, knees, ankles and feet 
  • Improves posture by walking upright, which can help with breathing
  • Strengthens muscles that support the spine
  • Builds upper body muscles in arms, shoulders and neck
  • Reduces fatigue 
  • Helps to establish, and maintain, a consistent pace 
  • Burns more calories 

What to look for when buying poles

  • For the right size, your elbows should be at a 90-degree angle
  • Check the comfort level of the hand grips and wrist straps
  • Anti-shock poles help to reduce strain on hands and wrists
  • Lightweight, carbon poles are more expensive, but aluminum poles are more flexible and better for running
  • Ensure that they are collapsible for travelling

Using your poles

  • Grip poles (firmly), with your elbows at 90 degrees
  • Let your arms swing naturally – opposite arm to leg 
  • Reach slightly forward with the pole, and push down on the ground and back 
  • Upright posture when going forward
  • Lean slightly forward when going uphill 
  • Establish a rhythm 
  • Stretch before and after
  • Poles assist with stability in the winter, but in icy conditions, wear appropriate footwear (i.e., boot traction slip-ons) and use trails that are well-maintained 

Walking improves your attention span and your outlook on life. According to researchers, walking outside can boost virus and tumour-fighting white blood cells. It’s a great activity to do alone or with others. 

 

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