In my pursuit of finding affordable, fun, outdoor activities that provide multiple health benefits I recently came across Urban Poling. Not only do you feel like you are flying (see Urban Poling –My Story) but the benefits of adding poles to your walks affect all aspects of your overall health. In comparison to regular walking, urban poling:
- Provides a 25% increase in cardiovascular activity.
- Since you are using more muscles as you walk, your body must work harder to pump blood and oxygen throughout your body. As a result, your heart and lungs get stronger and more efficient which makes doing every day activities easier, and you can recover quicker from any form of exercise.
- Provides an increase in heart rate – up to 10-15 more beats per minute.
- By activating your arms, core and back muscles more blood needs to be pumped throughout the body and more often. You feel like you are getting a workout in, but it’s so simple!
- Can burn 20-46% more calories
- What a benefit! Simply walking around your neighbourhood or on a trail, enjoying the scenery, socializing with friends and your body is benefiting! Urban poling also improves muscle tone, which will increase your resting metabolism.
- Provides many core strengthening benefits; in addition to improving, assisting and promoting proper standing and walking posture.
- For every mile you walk your abdominal muscles contract 1800 times, your latissimus dorsi muscles contract 900 times, and other muscles of your back and body get an excellent workout in. A strong core creates a foundation for proper gait and makes doing regular day-to-day activities easier and safer. Not to mention you stand tall and proud, during and even after your walk!
- Improves stability, balance and confidence while walking
- Those with balance issues or who have low confidence in walking longer distances feel supported by the poles and can maintain their physical health longer. Those without balance issues gain an increase in stability from the added core strengthening, and all walkers gain confidence during and after their walks.
- Is a low impact activity, it can transfer weight and stress off of hips, knees and ankles to the upper body and core muscles.
- Many low impact cardiovascular exercises require a pool (not everyone likes to swim for long periods of time), a bike or some sort of stationary equipment. Running can be tough on the lower body and many people simply do not enjoy it. Poling allows you to get outside, get moving and save your lower body in an easy, relaxing and fun way.
- Increases range of motion, and decreases pain in neck and shoulders
- When normal walking your arm swing is very relaxed, and even if you power walk your arms only feel a workout on the upswing. Urban poling uses an exaggerated arm swing, but the poles promotes proper shoulder stability while keeping your upper body mobile
- Can increase walking speed
- Plant, push, propel! Because of it’s muscle building, core strengthening, stability providing and confidence boosting benefits, you feel more comfortable moving faster than normal walking. To gain speed, simply apply more pressure to the handle! No need to stress out the lower body when your core and upper body are working!
- Improves grip strength
- Although the ergonomic urban poling handle promotes an easy and relaxed grip, poling for 20-60 minutes a few times a week can vastly improve your grip strength. We don’t notice it, but the strength of your grip helps you do daily tasks, such as opening a jar of pickles, carrying groceries, or picking up a child. Does regular walking help you with that?
- Improves mood, reduces fatigue, and self-perceived health
- Knowing you are doing something great for your body makes you feel great about yourself. As your fitness improves so does your confidence in yourself as an athlete (if you have a body, you are an athlete!). Studies show that your posture dictates your mood and perceived confidence. Urban poling forces you to walk with your chest tall and your head up. You look good, and you feel good.
Happy Poling! Stephanie
Stephanie Thompson is a former student-athlete at Western University and is a certified Kinesiologist who plays on the WCT Women's tour. This article, The Top 10 Health Benefits of Urban Poling was originally published on on her blog, Empowered Performance, and is re-published here with permission.