Physiotherapists Recommend 2 Pole Walking for Improved Fitness Outcomes

In our Ergonomic and Disability Prevention practice at Optimal Performance we often recommend more sedentary employees (by virtue of their job demands or by choice in terms of not being active enough during their day) commence a regular walking program during the week.  If the employees are truly interested in using their walking program to improve levels of fitness we take the recommendation one step further (literally) and recommend they purchase good walking poles. 

Why this recommendation?

The physiological evidence reviewed by the Canadian Physiotherapy Association’s Journal along with good evidence from the Physiotherapy community in Europe reveals the addition of the 2 poles when walking;

  • increase heart rate during walking
  • increased caloric expenditure during and immediately following the walking workout
  • increased dynamic loading of the muscles of the arm, and shoulder girdle
  • enhanced range of motion for the upper extremities versus typical limited arm movement during regular walking

In other words the use of 2 poles when walking (as well as hiking or even running if the employee prefers these activities) enhances the fitness benefits above and beyond what simple walking programs provide. 

Further, walking with two poles can provide more stability particularly if walking on uneven terrain and sidewalks. For employees who need to decrease the loads on the lower body joints and back the use of the two poles will decrease the loading of these joints and allow for a more comfortable walk.

Where to Purchase Walking Poles; also called Fitness Walking or Nordic Walking Poles

As always the consultants at OPC Inc do not represent any lines of equipment or fitness accessories in our practice. We also do not advocate for any one retailer over another. However the research undertaken by our fitness team at OPC revealed that the Running Room and other Fitness stores do not yet carry Walking/Hiking poles.
Mountain Equipment Co-op, with many locations across Canada now carry a variety of walking and hiking poles which are sold in pairs.  You can also order these poles on the Mountain Equipment Co-Op’s On Line Store for delivery to parts of Canada and the US who do not have access to their retail locations.
We recommend you ask one of the trained staff at MEC to help you select the correct size, weight and design of pole depending on which type of surface you will be walking or hiking and how serious you want to be about the walking program.
These poles often come with instruction manuals & videos to ensure you use proper technique. The poles also come with a removable rubber tip for switching between hard and soft surfaces.

The grips and straps on these poles are designed so you can push down on them to assist yourself on the trail or sidewalk, but also for quick release if the pole gets stuck between rocks or roots or cracks.The best grip is one with a positive angle, which allows the hand to remain in a neutral and stronger posture. Grip designs differ for fitness walking and for trekking so you will want to select the pole to match your activity.

Telescoping and Adjustable Height vs. Single-Length Poles

One-piece poles are lighter, quieter and will be the best choice for Nordic walking. If your interest is in trekking and hiking there are adjustable length poles which can change length as you move from uphill and downhill so the arms are always at the correct angle.


The Tips

Poles made for fitness walking often have a “paw” made for walking on asphalt, set at the proper angle to hit the pavement. 

Some have a rubber tip similar to a cane tip, which wears unevenly . These are removable.  There are carbide tips underneath the rubber tip for gripping natural trails. For walking in sand, snow, or soft trails, trekking baskets keep your poles from sinking in.

Anti-shock Systems

Cork or springs inside the poles can act to reduce shock. Some poles use springs to act as shock absorbers. These systems add a bit more weight to the poles but increase your comfort when using the poles.

Getting Started & Enjoying your Walking Workout

Get off on the right foot with your walking poles by ensuring you have comfortable walking shoes.  Review the You Tube Video on walking techniques with two poles.

Practice using the poles in an open area making sure you are using a reciprocal gait pattern – just like walking where when you as you move the right leg forward the left hand (and pole) moves forward and so on. With practice your gait will become relaxed and normal.  Use good posture when walking and be mindful of your breathing.

Once you get this figured out off you go. If you walk with your co-workers you will be more likely to stick with your walking fitness program.  At OPC we can provide you with a pedometre so you can track your walking distances and number of steps taken.  The key is to enjoy your fitness, at least 3 times per week for a minimum of 30 minutes. You will see changes in your fitness levels, upper body strength and function within 4 weeks of commencing your program.

Let us know how you do with your program by adding to the Comments Section of the Blog. We look forward to hearing from you with stories, questions and outcomes. Let’s start an OPC Pole Walking Community towards a fitter and healthier 2012!

The Fitness Team at OPC Inc.


 

 

 

 

 

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