Hiking is an excellent way to enjoy the great outdoors, explore scenic landscapes, and keep fit. However, any avid hiker will tell you that the sport can take a toll on your physical health, especially as you clock up miles and navigate challenging terrains. A valuable tool that can significantly mitigate this impact is a pair of hiking poles.
In this blog post, we will explore the numerous health benefits of hiking pole use, such as reduced stress on joints, improved balance, and faster recovery from injuries. We will also discuss expert opinions from orthopedic specialists on how to use hiking poles properly to maximize these benefits.
Table of Contents
Learning to Use Hiking Poles
Integrating hiking poles into your hiking routine may require some adjustments, but the benefits are well worth the effort. Here are some simple steps to help you get started:
- Adjust the length: Adjust your poles according to your height and terrain. On level ground, your elbows should be bent at a 90-degree angle when holding the poles.
- Grip firmly, but comfortably: Hold your poles with a firm grip, but ensure your hands aren’t clenched too tightly, allowing for comfort and maneuverability.
- Coordinate your movements: Your arms and legs should move in opposite pairs. For example, when your right foot steps forward, your left arm should follow suit.
Remember that practice makes perfect. The more you use your poles, the more natural it will become.
Reduced Stress on Joints
One of the primary advantages of using hiking poles is the tremendous relief they provide to your joints, particularly your knees, hips, and ankles. As you hike, the impact of your body weight on these joints is intensified when walking on uphill or downhill terrain.
According to Dr. Kevin Stone, an orthopedic surgeon and founder of The Stone Clinic in San Francisco, hiking poles can help transfer some of the weight and impact forces from your legs to your arms. This redistribution of weight and force can reduce the stress on your joints by up to 25%, significantly lowering the risk of injuries associated with repetitive stress, such as sprains, strains, and inflammation.
Improved Balance and Stability
Hiking poles are an indispensable accessory for hikers, providing much more than just support. With the ability to substantially improve balance and stability, they effectively make treacherous, uneven, and slippery terrain less hazardous, allowing for a safe and enjoyable hiking experience.
In a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, Schreiber et al. discovered that hiking poles can reduce falls and limit the need for balance strategies. This reduction in falls not only improves safety during hikes, but it also helps avoid any injuries that may occur such as fractures and dislocations.
Moreover, the added stability provided by hiking poles not only boosts efficiency but also enhances hikers’ confidence in their ability to tackle challenging terrains. Those who use hiking poles are able to distribute their weight across multiple points of contact, simultaneously improving their posture and reducing the impact of every step, resulting in less fatigue.
When exploring the great outdoors through hiking, using poles is a relatively easy way to make your trail experience more comfortable and injury-free. Hiking poles not only help you maintain good posture and minimize the risk of injury due to poor form, but also provide extra stability over tricky terrain, reduce stress on joints, and enhance your balance.
Besides all of these benefits, using hiking poles also allows you to give your arms, shoulders, and back a workout, making the ascent feel easier as you share the load. Plus, hiking poles can be adjusted for different types of terrain and can even double as support for a tarp or tent. Give it a try and you’ll discover how much they can transform your trekking adventures!
Faster Recovery from Injuries
If have faced an injury in the past, such as a sprain, strain, or fracture, you might want to look into using hiking poles as part of your recovery process. Doing so can speed up recovery and help you get back on the trail sooner.
Physical therapists and orthopedic specialists suggest using hiking poles as a rehabilitation tool due to their ability to offload pressure from the affected limb and provide additional support. And you don’t have to take their word for it — for instance, a study conducted by Dr. Gordon L Warren, Ph.D., CCTS, VR-24, a sports medicine specialist, found that hiking poles provide the necessary support and help foster proper form when walking, allowing for a more efficient healing process during recovery.
Expert Tips for Proper (and Effective!) Hiking Pole Use
Using hiking poles is undeniably beneficial for injury prevention and recovery. However, it is crucial that you use them correctly to maximize these benefits. Here are a few expert tips to ensure proper hiking pole use:
- Adjust Pole Length: Set the length of the pole according to the terrain. When hiking uphill, shorten the poles; when descending, lengthen them. As a general guide, your elbows should be bent at a 90-degree angle when holding the poles.
- Gripping Technique: Use a relaxed grip on the hiking poles, allowing your wrists to rest on the straps. This will help to redistribute the weight and impact forces effectively.
- Stride Synchronization: Synchronize your pole placement with the opposite foot, creating a rhythm that promotes balance and efficiency (e.g., right foot forward with left pole planted, and vice versa).
Conclusion – Injury Prevention and Recovery with Hiking Poles
Using hiking poles can offer various levels of health benefits to all types of hikers. One significant benefit of using hiking poles is that it reduces the stress placed on the joints, particularly the ankles, knees, and hips. Additionally, hiking poles contribute to improved balance, which can be especially helpful while navigating challenging terrain.
Another lesser-known benefit of using poles is the potential for faster recovery from injuries. Proper use of hiking poles can improve circulation, reduce inflammation, and promote healing, which can speed up the recovery process.
By incorporating advice from orthopedic specialists regarding proper usage, hikers can further improve their safety and comfort levels on the trails. Being equipped with the right knowledge about how to use hiking poles efficiently can be transformative, ensuring a more enjoyable experience overall. So, the next time you set out on a hike, consider picking up a pair of hiking poles that are tailored to your specific needs – your joints, and your overall health, will thank you.
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