It didn’t seem that long ago that our favourite walking companion was the family dog. How times have changed. These days when we go out for a walk, we’re taking poles and not the pooch. There’s a good reason for that. Research suggests that the use of walking poles in New Zealand has numerous benefits, which is why some of New Zealand’s leading outdoor retailers are selling so many of them.
Studies show that the use of walking poles reduces accumulated stress on the feet, legs, knees and back; poles achieve this by sharing the load more evenly across the entire body, and this is certainly the case for trampers, alpine walkers and other adventurous types who carry a heavy pack on their back.
Walking poles also deliver many more advantages apart from overall load distribution. These include:
- They help to protect knees and joints, especially when walking down steep hills.
- They improve power and endurance when walking uphill.
- Poles can assist in maintaining your balance and keeping your feet on uneven walking trails.
- They improve your posture by forcing you to adopt a more upright stance as you walk. This has the added benefit of helping you breathe better.
- Speed of your walk is increased, especially going downhill.
- Fatigue is reduced while endurance is increased. This allows you to take longer walks and burn more calories.
- Even more calories are burnt off thanks to the upper body and leg workouts that walking poles provide.
- Muscles that support your spine are strengthened.
- Walking poles held to develop muscles in your arms, shoulders and neck.
Now you’ve read all that, you’ll see why more people are now using walking poles in New Zealand and around the world. You might be tempted to rush out yourself and buy some. While that’s probably a good idea, you need to take some factors into account before you make a purchase.
For example, the most obvious thing to consider is getting the pole length right. It pays to seek some expert advice on this when shopping around but as a general rule, the pole should be of such a length that it allows your hand to lightly grip the handle while your arm is at a right angle to the ground. While pole manufacturers offer guidelines as to the right length for your height, many people who have been using them for years say the best poles are ones that can be adjusted: poles should be set longer for descending and then made shorter for ascending.
For extra comfort while using the poles, experienced walkers swear by wrist straps as they allow you to walk with a looser and more comfortable grip, as well as a more relaxed style. Again this is something to be discussed with the experts while you’re shopping around. But once you do sort out the best walking poles for your individual requirements, be it for walking suburban streets or mountain trails, you’ll enjoy a host of benefits that will make you happy you chose them…although the family pooch might tend to disagree.