For hikers and people who view walking as a sport, walking poles are the best accessories. Sometimes also referred to as walking sticks, they are specially designed such that they make use of the entire body in the exercise regimen, rather than just the legs, and have proven to be very conducive for good health.
Walking sticks or poles have rubber tips at the end that help maintain traction, and straps which help you fasten the poles to your wrists. Grab a pole in each hand, strap the handles on your wrists and get a firm grip on them and begin walking for physical fitness. There are poles designed specifically for trekking, and are referred to as trekking poles.
Make sure you buy a pole that's right for you. You get adjustable as well as non-adjustable (fixed) poles in the market. When you buy them, check that when you put your wrists in the straps and place the ends of poles near your heels, your hands are lower than your wrists. The straps should also be placed firmly across the back of your palm and underneath the thumb for a solid grip.
How to Exercise Using Walking Poles
- Practice a good deal with the poles before you begin your walking regimen so you get a good feel of them. Learn how to place them on the ground, and the correct technique of pushing them back as you take a step forward. As a beginner, you should begin with a smaller stride, and gradually advance to longer strides during the course of your training.
- Concentrate on the position of your arms. When you walk, your arms should be in front of you, with the wrist slightly elevated. Keep you arms parallel to the ground, and as outstretched as possible. Avoid bending them too much at the elbows. The swinging movement of your arms should be from your shoulder, not the elbows. Adjust the length of your pole for a good enough reach that you are comfortable with.
- Walking with poles will give you a longer, better stride, as compared to normal walking, when you tend to take shorter steps. Bear in mind that when you put the left arm forward, the right leg is backward, and vice versa. You will need to rehearse this opposing arms and legs technique to get a hang of it. Plant the end of the pole across the opposing foot. The farther you plant your pole, the more the pole will launch you forward. Ensure that you do not position the poles in front of your body when you take a stride, but at an angle, and to the sides. Walk with strong, confident steps.
- Maintaining a good posture is the key to walking right. Stand erect with your chin parallel to the ground. This manner of walking, with the head held high and straight is crucial for maintaining a good balance for the body. Keep your shoulders relaxed.
Benefits of Exercising with Walking Poles
- Walking with poles strengthens the spine and the core upper body muscles. You make full use of your shoulders, arms, back, and chest muscles, so eventually, you convert pole walking into a total body workout.
- Pole walking helps correct and maintain a good posture and improves balance.
- Pole walking burns up more calories than regular walking, as it involves intensive use of arm movements. The stronger your arm movements, the more calories you burn.
- This low-impact aerobic exercise enhances the functioning of the lymphatic system, which in turn boosts your immune system.
- Exercising with walking or hiking poles is beneficial for individuals with knee and arthritis problems, especially women, since it takes considerable weight off the limbs, hips, and back. This proves helpful for joints and even increases bone density.
- People who love a good outdoor walk on hiking trails can use these poles for added advantage. Trails can be tricky with uneven, rocky, or muddy terrain, and even a river crossing. Such people can use poles for improved balance and stability.
There is no need for separate workouts if you decide to start exercising with walking sticks. Half an hour of pole walking burns more calories than fifty minutes of regular walking. The bottom line is, exercise is good for health. And walking is the safest method of exercise you can and should try. It makes you feel better and is a whole lot of fun.