Benefits of Hiking Poles

Hiking polesThe bittersweet time of year has come to say farewell to Summer and welcome Fall. Some great things come with the Fall season, including pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin bread, and hot apple cider. Above all, we get to enjoy hiking in the crisp autumn air, viewing all of the changing leaves in our beautiful Rocky Mountains. With hiking on the brain, this is a good time to discuss hiking poles. Have you noticed a growing trend of people using hiking poles out on the trails? These poles are becoming more popular for good reason as they help us in many ways.

Hiking poles help to decrease impact through the hips, knees, and ankles, especially when hiking downhill. How, you might ask? Pushing downward slightly through each pole allows the arms to absorb some of the impact of each step. While it may seem like more work to carry poles for an entire hike, the extra energy required to carry them is actually quite small. Plus, they help us to achieve a better workout throughout the entire body since our arms are moving more. Win, win!

Since we now know why hiking poles are great tools to have on the trails, it is important that we know how to use them properly. Some hikers use one pole, while others use two. Two poles are most recommended as they more effectively decrease impact through each leg. They also provide us with better balance and stability. Lastly, they ensure that we we are moving equally on both sides of the body. Be sure to keep the hiking poles close to the body during your hike as this will minimize stress through the arms.

A great feature of hiking poles is their ability to adjust in height, so they can fit everyone perfectly! The elbows should rest at about 90 degrees when holding each pole. The poles may need to be lengthened when trekking downhill, and shortened when trekking uphill to maintain the resting position of the elbow at 90 degrees. Hiking poles are quick and easy to adjust, so it is no inconvenience to modify each pole as the terrain changes.

Now let’s get out there and enjoy all of the benefits that hiking poles provide. Happy hiking this Fall!

Dr. Katie Hall is a physical therapist at Colorado In Motion

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