Every hiker will find out at one point or another that the exercise gets harder on the hips and knees the older you get or the more challenging the path is. One of the solutions to aid with this, especially on descents, is to use walking or trekking poles. Similar to ski poles, you use them by holding one in each hand, using them to help push you forward or maintain stability while you hike. Even if they seem goofy to look at or you may think they are awkward to use, there are some real advantages to using them.
Aids with balance
When you are hiking through uneven terrain or crossing bridges and streams, you put yourself at a greater risk of slipping and falling, potentially injuring yourself. Injuring yourself during a hike is miserable, no matter the size of the injury, because you have to get yourself out and back to safety. Using walking poles will keep you stable and balanced as you work your way across uneven ground.
Decreases strain on your joints
Having a pole in each hand while you hike up or down a hill will take the added pressure off of your ankles, knees, and hips, making it easier to walk. Overuse, especially on hills, can cause pain throughout your joints, making not only hiking painful, but potentially making other activities painful long after you have finished hiking.
Provide you with a walking rhythm
With a pole in each hand while you are hiking, you will begin to gradually work out a pattern to your steps. Having a steady walking rhythm during hikes will make the hike smoother and easier, letting your body keep a pace that is appropriate for you.
Build upper body strength
While the poles will make it easier on your lower body when you are hiking, they can be harder on your upper body. Over time, your arm muscles will build up and you will find that your upper body is capable of a lot more after using the poles steadily for a long period of time.
Walking poles are meant to be used for walking or hiking, but they do have other purposes as well, especially when you are out in the woods. One of the most beneficial alternative uses from a walking pole is in helping create a shelter. This is especially important if you find yourself lost or stranded in the elements.
Take the weight off your back
If you are carrying around a heavy pack, you could find yourself having a harder time making it up the trail as the day goes on. Using poles helps to transfer that weight off your back and put it back into your arms for balance and encourage you to use your core strength as much as you are using your back.
Move things out of your way
One use of the poles that is valuable is when you can use them to move things out of your way on the trail that you would not want to touch with your hands. This includes poison ivy if you come upon it, letting you push it out of the way without ever needing to touch it. Likewise, if you come across an animal that is ready to fight you, you have a weapon at hand.
You can find walking or trekking poles at your local outdoor store or even online. There are different sizes and varieties so check with the professionals to make sure you are buying the right ones for you.
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