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Written by
FionaOutdoors
FionaOutdoors

Proof that walking poles aid walkers

We have written before about the claimed benefits of walking poles. Now a study has revealed for the first time how the poles help to maintain muscle function while significantly reducing soreness in the days following a walk. The study by Northumbria University in the UK focused on 37 physically active men and women who were split into two groups of equal fitness. They were asked to hike up and down the highest mountain in England and Wales, Snowdon. While one group had the aid of walking poles the other did not. As much as possible, everyone in both groups ate the same for their evening meal and breakfast, carried the same weight in a rucksack and enjoyed the same regulated rests during the ascent and descent. Data was collected of the walkers' heart rates and their personal perceived exertion ratings. At the end of the hike, and at 24, 48 and 72-hour intervals afterwards, muscle damage and function were scientifically tested. What the study found was “there was significantly less muscle soreness in the group using trekking poles”.

The benefits of using walking poles

The group that used the poles benefitted from:
  • Reduced loss of strength.
  • Faster recovery immediately after the hike.
  • Significantly less self-rated soreness 24 hours after the hike.
  • Significantly less self-rated soreness 48 hours after the hike.
  • Lower levels of the enzyme creatine kinase, which indicates muscle damage.
  • Negligible muscle damage.
Until now, pole manufacturers have claimed that trekking poles can reduce the forces on lower-limb joints by up to 25 per cent. Yet the research had been only carried out in labs or on running tracks and focused on biomechanical stress in the ankle, knee and hip areas. The Northumbria University study is the first documented study into the effectiveness of trekking poles on proper outdoors mountain terrain. Leading the study was Dr Glyn Howatson. She said: “The results present strong evidence that trekking poles reduce, almost to the point of complete disappearance, the extent of muscle damage during a day's mountain trek.”

Why poles are great for walkers

shutterstock_308947883 If muscle damage and soreness is reduced people are more likely to want to walk – and to keep on walking on more days – which leads to better health in the long-term. The potential for injury is also lowered because walking poles reduce the load to the lower limbs, which increases stability. Walking for many days in a row is easier and more enjoyable, such as when on a walking tour holiday, if you are aided by walking poles.
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