What is Pole Walking?
Originally developed in Finland as a summer training program for skiers, Pole Walking, also known as Nordic walking or balance walking, has continued to gain popularity. Pole Walking is a low-impact, accessible form of exercise that enhances the health benefits of ordinary walking. Depending on the type of pole used, the technique and stride will vary but the concept is the same; with the support of appropriately designed poles, walking becomes an energizing full-body experience.
Who can benefit?
Everyone! Research supports the use of specialized walking poles to improve mobility, stability and fitness level. Whether you are recovering from surgery, living with chronic conditions that affect your balance or looking to enhance your workout, there is a pair of poles for you!
What are the benefits of pole walking?
- Enhanced stability and mobility
- Reduced impact on joints
- Improved posture, coordination and gait
- Increased range of motion through shoulders and hips
- Reduced muscle tension due to increased blood flow and oxygen to tissue
- Supports immune system function via increased drainage of the lymphatic system
- Reduces arm and hand swelling caused by lymphedema
- Strengthens and tones the entire body
- Improved cardiovascular fitness
- Increased calorie burning
Which poles are right for me?
There are many types of walking poles available. In general, poles fall into two broad categories –poles for enhanced stability and balance, or poles to improve fitness level. Choosing the proper poles depends on your goals, mobility and current health status.
Choose walking poles that provide enhanced balance and stability if:
- You are recovering from recent injury or surgery
- You have chronic joint or bone pain
- You are living with chronic conditions that affect your stability and balance
- You require support while walking
Choose walking poles that are focused on fitness if you want to:
- Increase the speed or intensity of your walking
- Increase upper body and core strength
- Increase calorie burning
- Use the poles for off-road activities
Within these broad categories, one can also choose between hand straps or strap-less, adjustable height or fixed height and the material of the poles. You will quickly determine your personal preferences.
- Find a walking pole retailer near you with trained staff
- Try a few varieties to find the perfect pole for you
- Take a course, join a Pole Walking group or watch instructional videos online
- Practice on level ground until you are comfortable with the stride
- Get out there and enjoy!
For those that are interested, InspireHealth offers a weekly Walk and Stretch class which includes the opportunity to do pole-walking (Vancouver centre on Thursdays from 1-2 pm; Victoria centre on Wednesdays from 1-2pm). There are also several walks in and around the lower mainland organized by Foot Solutions. For more information, visit: www.meetup.com/balancewalking
Breanna Walker, BKin is an Exercise Therapist at InspireHealth in Vancouver. Breanna has seen first-hand the effect an empowering and supportive environment can have on the healing process.As an Exercise Therapist, she supports people with a cancer diagnosis to incorporate appropriate exercise routines into their daily life. She leads several exercise classes multiple times per week and teach gentle and restorative yoga classes open to patient and support members. Breanna also is one of our pole walkers, pictured above.