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Exercise and Walking Poles

Updated on June 19, 2013

Walking Poles

Exercising with walking poles is a great way to get and stay fit.
Exercising with walking poles is a great way to get and stay fit. | Source

Walking Poles and Fitness

As the population ages, and the need for exercise continues, pole walking is becoming increasingly popular as a wonderful option to staying fit and saving their joints.

Walking will always be an excellent way to stay fit. Pole walking ups this type of exercise by helping move the arms, upper back muscles, chest, shoulders, and increasing the range of motion, and makes walking into a full body workout.

Pole walking, also known as nordic walking, ski walking and exerstriding, trekking. Walking with poles offer many benefits for people of all ages. It helps to lessen the impact on the knees, ankles, and hips. Using poles while walking also increases the calories burned and involves using as much as 90% of our muscular system.

Walking at differing speeds can increase the cardiovascular system and increases the coordinated use of arm stride, back stride, heel stride, lunge stride, skip stride, and other strides, which help make this type of exercise into a higher intensity workout, and change walking from an aerobic exercise into an anaerobic exercise. As you push the poles with your hands, your body moves forward, strengthens and straightens you back and improves your posture, and shoulder flexibility.

Walking poles are designed with rubber tips on the bottom and straps that go around the wrist so that the poles are secure as you walk. Each hand grasps a pole and by gripping the handles and pushing off with each step, the poles increase the amount of calories burned. Heavy duty poles are used for hiking.

Aerobic and Anaerobic Exercise

There are many benefits of exercising with walking poles, which include making walking into more of an aerobic workout. Walking poles give balance and stability while walking on uneven ground or for older people who use them while walking. Walking poles make the arms move in coordinated movements for precision and agility. This helps enhance the nervous system, and can assist in learning other sport skills more quickly. Walking poles help with our posture by keeping our back straight while we walk.

Exercise is generally divided into three types: aerobic, anaerobic and agility.

Exercise that helps us improve how our body uses oxygen while we are producing energy and using the large muscle groups is known as aerobic exercising. It has to do with our ability to use oxygen. Aerobic exercising is usually done at moderate amounts of intensity for a length of time. Aerobic exercises usually include a warm up, at least a 20 minutes of a continuous exercise routine, and then a cooling down period. The idea with aerobic exercise is to get the heart rate raised at a sustained level for a period of time.

There are many benefits to aerobic exercise including:

  • increased muscle strength
  • facilitation of the flow of air into and out of the lungs
  • lower resting pulse rate
  • better toned muscles
  • lower blood pressure
  • improved circulation
  • better oxygen circulation through higher number of red blood cells
  • improved sleeping habits
  • better mental health
  • improved overall physical health

Aerobic exercise helps use oxygen, fat and glycogen to keep up the pace at a consistent heart rate. Aerobic exercise helps condition the body for anaerobic activities where energy is stored in the muscles instead of fat cells. Aerobic exercise increases the heart rate to a higher level for a few seconds of minutes.

Using walking poles turns walking into a new level of endurance, which works many of the same muscles that are used for cross country skiing and for running longer distance.
It takes your heart rate to a new level of intensity that is often difficult to sustain longer than seconds or minutes. Because it is a distance exercise, Nordic walking is an endurance activity, working many of the muscle groups used in running and cross-country skiing.

Walking poles easily encourage cardiorespiratory training with the intensity of this type of exercise. It helps to easily burn fat and can help people increase their level of competition with intensive training. Walking poles help build a healthier heart.

Anaerobic exercise builds stronger muscles by exercising at high intensity for short periods of time, usually only about two minute duration. Anaerobic means no air and makes our muscles stronger as we require quick bursts of speed to move. No oxygen is used during anaerobic exercise. Our cardiovascular system benefits more from aerobic exercise, but anaerobic benefits the heart and lungs as this type of exercise builds strength and muscle mass. Bigger muscles helps us burn more fat, even when we are not exercising. .

The Benefits of Pole Walking

Pole walking helps give a greater range of motion with longer strides so that more muscles are engaged in the activity. The poles help the body move forward with more strength. With this increased range of motion, a person is actually covering more ground with less effort. Because of this, an added benefit is more flexibility. Walking poles help to increase agility and an ability to move quicker and have more maneuverability.
Pole walking helps coordinate many muscles in the body, and generate a rhythmic pace. This helps our brain communicate instructions so that we move with ease and develop physical and mental logical order using energy efficiently. The benefits help increase balance, agility and our eye and movement skills that help increase coordination.

Pole walking can enjoy exercising with little risk of injury, and improvement in other sport skills. Our muscles respond well to the repetitive motion and our cardiovascular system benefits from the endurance of this exercise.

Changing strides while pole walking helps sustain the pace, giving an aerobic workout, adding bursts of energy to the muscles in a faster pace that gives an anaerobic workout.

Pole walking is becoming a fast growing fitness routine in Europe.

Pole walking works the arms, shoulders, and abs and may burn as much as 40% more calories than regular walking. This exercise is similar to cross country skiing without the snow.

The University of Wisconsin has been using pole walking with their patients who are recovering from heart problems, because the increased oxygen uptake offers curative effects for these patients.

What to Look for in Walking Poles

The Surgeon General encourages moderate and regular exercise to improve health. Twenty to thirty minutes of walking three to five times per week maintains and improves our health with little injuries or adverse effects compared to other exercises like jogging, running, and other impact routines.

There are many benefits to exercising including a lower risk of heart disease, non insulin dependent diabetes, cancer and other health risks.

Walking poles are an excellent motivational tool to help walk the recommended half hour a day for five days a week.

Walking with these poles becomes easier on the knees because as the poles press into the ground, it takes pressure off of the the hips, feet and knees and it makes walking longer distances easier. The joints and muscles have less stress.

While pole walking is a much more popular form of exercise in Europe, the United States has been slowly to catch on. It might possibly be because Americans feel more self conscious about exercising with the poles.

Walking poles can be made different by different manufacturers. What to look for in walking poles:

  • telescopic adjustment - you can vary them based on your height, or share them with other people. Poles with these features can be adjusted to the terrain you are walking on, and whether you are walking uphill or downhill.
  • collapsible polls - you can stow them away for easy storage or transportation.
  • poles with soft grips - poles that are designed to fit the shape of your hand will provide greater comfort. Padding below the handgrip is also something good to look for because it will allow you to grasp the pole below the grip without having to adjust the length, when you change to a short uphill or downhill walk.
  • poles with shock absorbers - also referred to as an anti shock system. This helps absorb the impact as the poles hit the ground with each step and take the strain away from your arms and shoulders. Look for an anti shock system that allows you to turn the system off when you don’t want to use it. This is often not needed going uphill.
  • pole baskets are circular rings at the bottom of the walking poles. These help the poles to not sink in mud or snow. Many poles don’t even come with baskets, and those that do may be very small. Buy baskets that are large and solid and change between different baskets based on varying conditions.
  • look at the tip of the poles. They usually come in three styles - single, chiseled and rubber tips. The most versatile are the chiseled point. This tip will have notches that are cut out of the end of the pole and has a few of the points sticking out. This offers traction in many different walking conditions, whether it is icy, muddy, or a paved path and other conditions. Rubber tips are ideal for hard packed paths and boardwalks. Sharp points are useful on ice. Tips made of carbide are the most durable, compared to aluminum tips. Most poles can swap out different tips depending on the areas you may walk.
  • like almost anything else you can buy, stay away from bells and whistles. Don’t buy added features you probably don’t need.

Talk to Your Doctor Before You Start to Exercise

As people begin to realize that pole walking is a viable way to get a simple, yet brisk thirty minute workout. A regular exercise routine can lower your bad LDL, bad cholesterol and raise the good, HDL, cholesterol, which helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Before you start any exercise routine, it is best to talk to our doctor.

Starting and staying with an exercise program takes a lot of motivation. Some people start exercising for any number of reasons. It is important to do exercise at your own pace and to find it enjoyable. Pole walking may just be type of exercise that will fit your needs . As you exercise, experts say it is important to change your fitness routine for the greatest result. This means you can stay with the same exercise, but change your pace or the route you are pole walking. Changing the exercise routine is a good thing to do for the many reasons including:

  • avoiding boredom
  • avoiding a plateau
  • avoiding using only the same muscles all the time

With each day you exercise, you are more likely to keep at it.

Obesity is becoming an ever increasing problem in the United States and throughout the world. You have a choice about how you feel and how you look. Exercise, although it can be time consuming is well worth the investment in yourself. Pole walking for you might be an excellent way to achieve these benefits. If it is not pole walking, hopefully you will find the motivation to start some exercise program that you will fit into.


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    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi my friend, great well written and put together hub and a great way to exercise has well !

      Vote up and more !!!

    • breakfastpop profile image

      breakfastpop 5 years ago

      I love the idea of these poles. Thanks!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Good information my friend. We do a lot of snowshoeing, and poles are very helpful for that exercise. I have no doubt that walking poles serve the same purpose.