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Walking With Sticks: Benefits for Health & Weight Loss

7 min read
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David J. Sautter post Reviewer David J. Sautter post Reviewer
Verified by David J. Sautter
NASM Personal Trainer, NASM Fitness Nutrition Specialist, ACE Sports Conditioning Specialist, NASM Performance Enhancement Specialist

Table of Contents

If you regularly walk as a part of your fitness program, you’ve probably seen people walking with sticks or trekking poles. You may wonder, “Why use walking sticks if you can easily walk without them?” 

There can’t possibly be a ton of benefits of walking sticks, right?

Believe it or not, there are many benefits of walking with sticks. While they are obviously more beneficial for those who lack the mobility or muscular strength to walk on their own, they are still a useful fitness tool for anyone who enjoys walking or hiking.

The best part? They’re affordable, multi-functional, convenient, and highly accessible, making them perfect for a good walk or hike. With that said, let’s take a look at the many benefits of walking sticks.

What Is the Purpose of Walking Sticks?

Walking sticks are a multifunctional piece of equipment offering several unique purposes. Contrary to popular belief, walking sticks aren’t exclusively recommended for those who need them as a means of assistance.

The primary purpose of walking sticks is to reduce the load on the legs when hiking.

The purposes extend to the relief of joint strain, assistance in stability and maneuvering, and improved posture while walking, especially for people with an injury or weight issues.

Walking poles can also be used to enhance an upper-body workout, tone upper-body musculature, and burn more calories than otherwise possible without them. 

We’ll discuss even more of the benefits of walking poles below!

6 Major Benefits of Walking Poles

Finding what works best for you will optimize your experience and allow you to reap the benefits of trekking poles.

Prioritizes Joint Health

Are you looking for ways to alleviate existing joint pain, particularly in the knees, or are you hoping to prevent it altogether?

Walking poles act to offset the load that’s traditionally placed on the lower extremities and transfer it throughout the entirety of the body, upper extremities included. 

Not only will this reduce overall tension and stress on the knee joints, but it will also allow you to walk without any pain or discomfort in the area, thus improving overall performance and enjoyment. 

Burns More Calories

Since walking poles involve your upper body in a standard walk or hike, you will inevitably burn more calories. Why? Simply because you engage more muscles and exert more effort. 

Indirectly, walking poles may also encourage those who don’t walk at all to begin to do so, thus further promoting exercise and caloric expenditure. 

Related article: I’m Walking a Mile a Day: Will I Lose Weight Soon?

Builds Core Strength

Using walking poles while walking or hiking also helps build core strength.

Through every step or stride, while using trekking poles, the core is exponentially more engaged than it otherwise would be without trekking poles. 

In other words, with each step or stride, you’re simultaneously contracting your abdominal muscles. Sure, it’s not going to be as intense as doing a sit-up or crunch, but engaging the core is going to support overall functional movement patterns. 

Promotes and Improves Posture

Regardless of whether you have weight issues, walking or hiking for extended periods can cause physical and mental fatigue. During a bout of fatigue, one of the first things you stop paying attention to is your form and posture.

Walking sticks inevitably force the body to walk upright, ensuring your poor posture is corrected right away. This can also have residual effects on the relief of back, neck, and shoulder pain. 

Improves Balance and Coordination

For those who struggle with balance and coordination, particularly when walking and hiking, walking poles can help improve both. 

While walking, you may sway from one side to another. With the help of walking poles, you can counterbalance yourself, promoting an all-but-perfect walking form. 

Over time, of course, your balance may improve so much that walking poles aren’t even necessary anymore.

Encourages You to Get Outdoors

Finally, for those currently on a weight-loss journey, you may spend much of your time on the treadmill. 

While walking on the treadmill is a great form of exercise, experts encourage the addition of variability into your walking workouts. Exercising outdoors is a great way to do just that.

Aside from supporting your fitness journey, exercising outdoors comes with its own myriad health benefits, including improved mood, increased levels of vitamin D, and support of functional movement patterns.

Related article: Are Treadmills Bad for Your Knees?

How to Use Walking Poles Correctly

Whether you’re taking them on a weekend hike or you plan on using them in everyday life for walking, there are several tips to consider when learning to properly use walking poles for optimal benefit.

Be Aware of the Learning Curve

If you’ve never used a pair of walking sticks before, it’s important to know beforehand that there is a quick and easy learning curve.

Walking poles are likely to present several initial challenges, mainly due to comfort and familiarity. Don’t give up right away when first using them! 

It’ll take some trial and error to find the right fit. Adjust accordingly! 

The Pole Goes First

When walking or hiking, be sure to plant the pole ahead of each step and allow your foot to follow naturally. 

It’s Not a Sprint

Walk in a relaxed fashion; walking poles aren’t intended to impede your natural course of movement but rather enhance it. 

What to Look for When Buying Walking Poles

When purchasing the right set of walking poles, there are several features to consider, including length, comfortable weight, straps, and convenient handles. 

  • Length. To find the right length for walking sticks, pay close attention to your elbows. When the tips of the walking sticks touch the ground, your elbows should have a 90-degree bend.
  • Comfortable weight. When picking a walking stick, make sure it’s not too heavy. Generally speaking, the lighter, the better — no more than 8 ounces per stick.
  • Straps. Most poles come with straps that fit around your wrists or lower arms. These provide support and help to keep the poles steady as you move.
  • Convenient handles. When looking for a walking stick, find one with comfortable handles. Look for something that is ergonomically designed and has non-slip grips.
  • Foldable Walking Poles. If you plan to go for long hikes, it might be a good idea to choose foldable walking poles.

Final Words

Simply put, if you enjoy walking or hiking as a cardio activity, you will benefit from using walking sticks.

  • The main purpose of walking poles is to reduce the load on the legs when hiking.
  • Walking sticks assist in stability, maneuvering, and improved posture while walking.  
  • Choosing the right poles and using them correctly is essential to get all the potential benefits.
  • Among the major benefits of walking with sticks are joint protection, increased calorie burn, core strengthening, and improved balance and coordination.

If you’re looking to go the extra mile with the help of your very own walking sticks, check out WalkFit, a walking app that builds personal walking workouts and challenges and helps you improve your health and track your progress in real time! 

Disclaimer This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

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