Friday, September 30, 2022

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Observations and Conversations


By: Cheryl Ilov

Now that summer has finally arrived, it’s time to venture back into the great outdoors. Nothing beats a good walking program or an exhilarating hike to keep us fit, healthy, on top of our game and on top of the world. Here is a simple and surprising tip to keep you moving and get the best results out of your walking or hiking routine. Invest in a set of walking sticks. And a little bit of knowledge knowing that walking sticks can help improve your posture, will go a very long way.

No, it’s not cheating, it’s smart. There are many benefits from using hiking poles or walking sticks, regardless of whether you are a walk-around-the-park kind of trekker, or if you prefer going deep into the forest or climbing high in the Rockies. Here are just a few of them.

Hiking poles (or walking sticks) can help improve your posture putting you in a more upright position with your chest lifted, your shoulders back, and your torso balanced over your hips. Not only does this help your posture, it takes a lot of unnecessary pressure off of your knees, reducing the possibility of pain, stiffness, and injuries.

Using poles can help you strengthen your spine. Using the poles helps to simulate a “normal” gait pattern, meaning that your arms and legs are moving in opposition. This results in a gentle counter-rotation of your chest and pelvis, which is essential for a strong, flexible, and healthy spine.

The poles also give you an upper body as well as a lower body workout. If you don’t believe me, give it a try and get back to me. You might be surprised. Also, since the poles help put you in better postural alignment, the forces of gravity are able to go through your legs in a more harmonious way, working the backs of your legs as well as the front. You work your gluts (butt muscles), as well as your hamstrings, resulting in stronger legs, a more shapely derriere, and significantly less stress and strain on your knees at the same time. As an added bonus, when you are in an upright position, your abdominal muscles automatically start to engage, so you are strengthening your core with every step. Score!

Poles help improve your balance. Not because you are depending on them to maintain your balance, but because of the alignment of your upright posture, which places your center of gravity over your base of support, allowing you to be more sure-footed. Walking on uneven surfaces is a fantastic way to train your balance, and a vital component in keeping you fit and healthy.     

Finally, here’s a little tidbit you might not have considered, and it comes from my many years of martial arts training. Having two big sticks in your hands can provide a handy dandy makeshift weapon when you’re walking in the woods (or in the park). You never know when you might run into an unexpected four-legged (or two-legged) threat.

So, try investing in a pair of hiking poles. They will help you go the distance, giving you a longer workout as well as a more balanced one so you can go deeper into the woods or further up the trail to enjoy the great outdoors. After all, isn’t that why we live in Colorado or hike the Sierra Nevada’s or Mt. Washington?

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