I’m the first to admit that I am not a hiker with a capital ‘H’. I prefer to do my hiking by either walking Lily around the campground or leisurely strolling through the forest on my way from the campsite to the lake. However, when I do decide to go trekking, either on a path or cross country, I always carry my walking stick.
Why Carry a Walking Stick?
- Balance assistance on rocky terrain, crossing water or washes, going up or down hills
- Reduces stress on joints by offering extra power and balance, reduces shock on knees going downhill and takes pressure off of your back and hips going uphill
- Helps burn more calories
- Can be used to clear spider webs, hold back brush, flip rocks, look for a geocache, etc
- Is a deterrent to being bothered by animals and people
The first thing is choosing the walking stick that is right for you. There are lots of choices available. You can get composite fiber, wood, aluminum and plastic sticks. I’ve got an adjustable aluminum stick with a rubber tip and a handy strap that goes around my wrist.
Whatever type you use, pick something light and strong – light because you will have to carry it and at least strong enough to not break and to stay in one piece when you put your full weight on it.
Length is also important, which is why I’ve got an adjustable stick, I adjust the stick to what feels good for that day. For trail hikers, an adjustable stick allows you to alter the length as you go uphill and downhill – keeping the correct angle between your shoulder, elbow, and wrist.
Two recent studies have shown walking and trekking poles to be effective for reducing the exertion felt while increasing the calories burned by hikers and walkers. The study conducted at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst showed that using poles lets hikers lengthen their strides, put less strain on their knees, and generally feel more comfortable. The hikers studied did not expend less energy, but the increase in stability made long treks easier.
The Cooper Institute of Dallas, Texas assessed the NordicWalking method of using two poles for fitness walking. They found an increase in calories burned and oxygen used by 20% compared with regular walking at the same pace.
And, of course, being able to go on longer hikes means that you can burn more calories!
When you buy your walking stick, either a single or pair, remember that this is a very personalized purchase. Buy a stick that you like and that you know you’ll use. I recommend actually visiting a store for this purchase. Hiking sticks can be expensive so you want to buy something you’ll use and being able to test it in a store really helps!
Do you know where to go hiking in your area? Are you looking for a level, well maintained path where you can really clip along or are you looking for a strenuous straight-up and straight-down path? EatStayPlay.com has the answers for you!