It is undeniable that walking brings you a number of opportunities Health Benefitss – it helps your heart, blood sugar, mental health and more. But what if you want to intensify your walks and get more upper body involvement? Hiking sticks might be the answer.
Research has shown that walking with sticks can do this burn more calories and increase your heart rate although you may not feel like you are exerting any more effort than normal walking. It can increase your metabolism and activate more muscles. It has a positive effect on your blood pressure and can improve your quality of life. And hiking poles give you a full body workout.
“The poles integrate the upper body through the core into the lower body. It’s a much more complete workout just by adding the bars.” Jon Schulza board-certified clinical orthopedic physical therapy specialist based in Iowa and a certified urban poling master trainer, told TODAY.com.
Who should – and who shouldn’t – use hiking poles?
Hiking poles are not for everyone, but most people can benefit from them. “It’s a very low-injury type of activity,” says Schultz. If you’re not sure if they’re a good option for you, or unsure how to use them, talk to your doctor or a physical therapist.
You might want to try them if you:
You already go for walks regularly and would like to change up your training.
Have pain from arthritis or plantar fasciitis. The sticks can help relieve the weight so you may feel less pain.
Are an athlete looking for a cross training option. “Sometimes it’s difficult to get to the pool or the gym. You can just take to the streets with it,” says Schultz.
want to improve your posture.
Spend a lot of time at your desk or computer. “Being on our devices and on our computers has affected how people move,” says Schultz. “When you move your arms alternately, you can really free up your upper back. I have many clients with pain in the upper neck and between the shoulder blades and they have noticed a tremendous improvement in the feeling in that area.”
If you have Parkinson’s disease, balance problems, or problems with your shoulders, walking sticks may not be right for you – your doctor can help you decide.
What should you look for in a hiking stick?
If you’re going to try hiking poles, think about where and how you’re going to use them. fitness or Nordic walking Poles are designed for sidewalks and paths. (If you plan on hiking with your poles or going on rougher trails, you’ll need trekking poles that are designed for rougher surfaces.)
These are some features to compare when choosing sticks:
Length: You should buy poles that are appropriate for your height – most are adjustable but check the size, especially if you are very tall or short.
Grip: Some sticks have left and right grips, while other models have both grips the same. Schultz noted that people with arthritis in their hands might prefer a more ergonomic design.
Hand Support: Sticks can have an edge that supports the back of the hand, a half or full glove, or a strap. Pressing on the edge while using the bars can help activate your core. If you’re using a glove or a strap, you can let go of the bar when it’s behind you and then catch it as you pull your arm forward.
Tips: At the bottom of a walking stick you have an angled rubber butt or paw or tip like you would see on a cane. You may also have a basket that can help you when you are walking in the sand or snow. Some models offer multiple options and these allow you to change the tip according to your walking conditions.
How to walk with a walking stick
Walking with sticks feels different at first. Many people do not move their arms when walking, or move one arm more than the other. “The integration of the upper and lower body is a bit odd,” says Schultz. It’s a new skill and requires some motor control. But once people learn how to do it, most like it.
Schultz has people start dragging the bars behind them as they get into alternate arm movements, bringing their arms into the handshake position. “People aren’t used to their arms getting a little higher,” he says. When you start using the sticks he says you want to do the following:
“Sometimes we even have to use one pole at a time until we can get both poles together,” he says.
If you already walk regularly, Schultz recommends starting with 15 to 20 minutes of cane walking. You may feel a bit sore at first as walking with poles is a full body workout. Gradually, you can work up to 2 or 3 times a week for 45 to 50 minutes at a slightly more vigorous pace.
The sticks can also help a little when you’re walking uphill, and you can use them for stability when you’re doing squats or lunges.
The final result
If you’re looking for a way to change up your hiking routine, consider adding hiking poles. They can add intensity and upper-body strength to your workouts, and help counteract those long hours at the computer.
This article was originally published on TODAY.com