Walking Poles

Original Editor - Lucinda Hampton

Top Contributors - Naomi O'Reilly, Kim Jackson and Rucha Gadgil  

Introduction[edit | edit source]

Walking poles.jpeg

Pole Walking (or Nordic Walking) is a low-impact fitness walking using specially designed, lightweight poles.

Nordic walking exerts beneficial effects on resting heart rate, blood pressure, exercise capacity, maximal oxygen consumption, and quality of life in patients with various diseases and can be recommended to a wide range of people as primary and secondary prevention.[1] [2]

As the name suggests, Nordic Walking was developed in the Scandinavian countries by cross-country skiers wanting to improve their summer training methods. The poles are quite different to regular hiking poles, and are used with a push back action like cross-country skiing[3].

Physiological Benefits[edit | edit source]

Nordic Poles.jpeg

Nordic Walking (NW) is a form of physical activity where conventional walking is supported by the use of specially designed poles. According to the International Nordic Walking Federation (INWA), the correct technique in use of the poles involves a backward pole position during the loading phase, active and dynamic use of the poles, and control of the poles with the grip and strap. Use of the poles actively engages the upper body to propel the body forward during walking.

  • Oxygen uptake (VO2), heart rate (HR), and blood lactate concentration are all higher when walking with poles than without them.
  • Energy expenditure at a given speed is about 20% higher when walking with poles, with the amount of the differences depending on technical and equipment-related factors[4].Lots of evidence confirms that Nordic walking burns more calories than regular walking-estimates range from an increase of 18% to 67% more[5].
  • The use of walking poles engages the upper body muscles.
    • EMG muscle activity of the upper body muscles during NW was highest in the triceps brachii muscle, with an average 16-fold increase in muscle activation during NW as compared to conventional walking, followed by the latissimus dorsi muscle, with an average 4-fold increase during NW as compared to conventional walking. Triceps and the latissimus dorsii muscles are involved in the poling phase during elbow extension and shoulder back extension, respectively.
    • A significant increase in biceps brachii and deltoideus anterior muscle activation during NW was also seen, with an average 2- to 3-fold increase throughout the entire gait cycle.
    • The higher oxygen consumption measured during NW as compared to conventional walking can be attributed to increased muscle activation primarily for thrust action in the poling phase and secondarily for joint stabilisation at pole impact and during the poling phase.
  • Pole use during uphill walking decreases contraction of the erector spinae muscle. Since erector spinae muscle contraction is decreased during NW, this form of exercise may be suited for people with chronic low back pain and back disorders[4].

Specific Group examples[edit | edit source]

Nordic poles happy.jpeg

Research from Europe and the USA has proven that the health benefits of Nordic Walking are significantly greater than regular walking, jogging, swimming and cycling. Public Health England now recommend Nordic Walking as one of the most effective forms of exercise[6].

  • NW pole push movement against the ground was effective for increasing the strength of non-weight-bearing bone[7].
  • NPW immediately enables patients with intermittent claudication to walk further with less pain, despite a higher workload. NPW might also be a useful exercise strategy for improving the cardiovascular fitness of patients with intermittent claudication.[8]
  • Nordic walking is an attractive method of endurance training for Older People. Eight weeks of Nordic walking training effectively improved the walking economy and functionality as well as maintained the gait mechanics, similar to free walking training in elderly people. This enhancement in the metabolic economy may have been mediated by a reduction in the co-contraction from upper limb muscles[9].
  • Nordic Walking has been shown to improve both motor and non-motor features of Parkinson's Disease[10].
  • Hiking is a common recreational activity that provides numerous health benefits, such as reduced risk of heart disease, reduced blood pressure, and improved cardiorespiratory fitness. The use of specifically designed trekking poles has become popular among participants seeking to alleviate sore knees and increase balance and stability while walking. Trekking poles decrease lower extremity loading and forces but increase cardiovascular demand. When carrying a large external load, trekking poles may offer benefit by decreasing lower extremity muscle activity and increasing balance and stability.[11]

Physiotherapy[edit | edit source]

Nordic Walking can be used as part of a rehabilitation program and variations on the basic technique can be made to accommodate for specific conditions.

For those at a higher level of fitness and skill, the poles can be used for Nordic Jogging, Bounding and Skating drills[3].

The correct technique should be taught to ensure the benefits of NW. This vedeo, less than 3 minutes, gives an introduction.


References[edit | edit source]

  1. Tschentscher M, Niederseer D, Niebauer J. Health benefits of Nordic walking: a systematic review. Am J Prev Med. 2013 Jan;44(1):76-84. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2012.09.043. PMID: 23253654 Available from:https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23253654/ (accessed 9.4.2021)
  2. Walking stick guide Pole Walking Available from:https://walkingsticksguide.com/ (accessed 9.4.2021)
  3. 3.0 3.1 Teneriffe physio Nordic Walking Available from:https://teneriffephysio.com.au/our-services/nordic-walking/ (accessed 10.4.2021)
  4. 4.0 4.1 Pellegrini B, Peyré-Tartaruga LA, Zoppirolli C, Bortolan L, Bacchi E, Figard-Fabre H, Schena F. Exploring muscle activation during nordic walking: a comparison between conventional and uphill walking. PloS one. 2015 Sep 29;10(9):e0138906.Available from: https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0138906(accessed 9.4.2021)
  5. Church TS, Earnest CP, Morss GM. Field testing of physiological responses associated with Nordic Walking. Research quarterly for exercise and sport. 2002 Sep 1;73(3):296-300.Available from:https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/02701367.2002.10609023 (accessed 10.4.2021)
  6. Canberra Times JUNE 20 2019 - 9:00AM Several health benefits of Nordic Walking Available from: https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/6220132/disability-health-benefits-of-nordic-walking/(accessed 10.4.2021)
  7. Kato T, Tomioka T, Yamashita T, Yamamoto H, Sugajima Y, Ohnishi N. Nordic Walking Increases Distal Radius Bone Mineral Content in Young Women. Journal of sports science & medicine. 2020 Jun;19(2):237.Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7196759/(accessed 10.4.2021)
  8. Oakley C, Zwierska I, Tew G, Beard JD, Saxton JM. Nordic poles immediately improve walking distance in patients with intermittent claudication. European Journal of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery. 2008 Dec 1;36(6):689-94.Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1078588408004772(accessed 9.4.2021)
  9. Gomeñuka NA, Oliveira HB, da Silva ES, Passos-Monteiro E, da Rosa RG, Carvalho AR, Costa RR, Paz MC, Pellegrini B, Peyré-Tartaruga LA. Nordic walking training in elderly, a randomized clinical trial. Part II: Biomechanical and metabolic adaptations. Sports medicine-open. 2020 Dec;6(1):1-9.Available from: https://sportsmedicine-open.springeropen.com/articles/10.1186/s40798-019-0228-6(accessed 9.4.2021)
  10. Bombieri F, Schena F, Pellegrini B, Barone P, Tinazzi M, Erro R. Walking on four limbs: a systematic review of Nordic Walking in Parkinson disease. Parkinsonism & related disorders. 2017 May 1;38:8-12.Availabl from:https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S135380201730038X (accessed 9.4.2021)
  11. Hawke AL, Jensen RL. Are Trekking Poles Helping or Hindering Your Hiking Experience? A Review. Wilderness & Environmental Medicine. 2020 Sep 24.Available from:https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32980249/ (accessed 9.4.2021)
  12. Sikana English Nordic Walking Available from:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zAmsHhc2zCw (accessed 10.4.2021)