Step it Up! How Walking Poles Can Help You Be More Active
When you think of Nordic poles you may think of wintertime sports like skiing, but there are many benefits for using them for outdoor walking in any season. There are more than 280 research studies demonstrating the addition of Nordic poles to a walking program.
These walking poles can provide support so you can move faster and with a reciprocal arm swing. When walking with walking poles you are able to work on your gluteus maximus, quadriceps, hamstrings, gastrocnemius, and tibialis anterior - basically the major muscles groups in your legs. Using walking poles also allows for more of a heel to toe walking pattern, which can reduce fall risk.
By engaging your arms as you push down on the poles you are also able to engage your core muscles. Try this exercise at home - Place your hand on a kitchen counter and press down like you would with a walking pole. Are you able to feel your arm muscles engage and also your core muscles? By engaging your arms there is overflow signaling to your core muscles.
Nordic pole walking in Parkinson's has been found to increase stride length and demonstrate a decrease in overall trunk movement leading to improved postural stability. Walking quality also remained improved with the addition of a cognitive task. Another research study found that Nordic pole walking associated with improvements in non-motor symptoms of PD. Additionally, a Nordic walking program improved postural stability, stride length and gait variability compared to a flexibility and relaxation program. It has been found that using Nordic poles can increase the energy used by 20-40% compared to walking.
Another benefit of walking poles is that they can be an alternative to other assistive devices. If you require a cane or a walker for balance, walking poles may be able to provide that same stability. The added bonus of walking poles is that they facilitate a more upright posture.
There are many different types of walking poles on the market. If you are new to walking poles and want to try them out you can purchase a pair on Amazon for ~$20 (see link below). If you are looking to invest in walking poles another option would be checking out urbanpoling.com. These walking poles are designed with a ledge to support the wrist instead of a strap, which can decrease wrist and hand fatigue along with facilitate increased core activation. This company also has a anti-vibration system built in to facilitate walking on more uneven terrain.