The Cooper Institute in Dallas, Texas documented as much as 46 per cent increase in energy consumption, kicking up the calorie burn from a normal 280 to 400 an hour just by striding with poles. Carol Rodgers, associate professor at the Faculty of Physical Education and Health at the University of Toronto, conducted a study on women walking with poles and found similar results. The bonus: none of the women felt that they were exerting that much more effort. Now that’s motivation!
What’s more, the up and down motion of your arms can help you work the kinks out of your tense neck and shoulders. By using poles, you also take a load off creaky joints and knees. The plus for winter is that poles can help you negotiate ice and snow more safely.
How do you do it? It’s easy, really. Take a pair of poles – cross-country poles will do – and plant them at a 45 degree angle, grip forward. Your arms should be outstretched, as if you are shaking hands with someone. Then, for each step you take, pump the opposite arm up and the other down. For a demonstration on how to use the poles properly, go to www.Exerstrider.com and view a video. To stay limber in your upper body, see the stretch tip.
Sharon Ross of Ingersoll, Ont. has been walking with poles for two years now. But since last spring, she’s more determined than ever. She gets up at 7:30 in the morning to walk 3.5 km in about 40 minutes. The poles, she says, help her climb the hills that surround her home with ease. She is pleased with the health benefits, too. Her upper arm and abdominal strength has improved, as has her posture. An added bonus: she has lost about 15 pounds through both walking and a low-fat diet over the last six months. She is determined to continue Nordic walking through the winter months, too.
The right fit for poles
To measure the correct height for walking poles, start off by standing in your stocking feet. Hold your hand out in front of you as if you were going to shake someone’s hand. Measure the distance from the middle of your hand to the floor. On a 1.62 m or five foot four inch woman, for example, the distance should be about 117 cm or 46 inches. Another way to measure is to place the bottom tip of the pole even with the heel of the foot. Grip the pole. If your arms are parallel to the ground, then the poles are the correct height. Make sure that the poles are no higher than your armpit, ideally a few inches below. To order specially designed walking poles, check out Exerstrider, a Michigan-based company. The poles cost about US $100 plus shipping.