What Good Are Hiking Poles?
Double hiking poles, held like ski poles, are becoming a common sight on the trail. Do they really make hiking easier?
Or, with their added weight, will they help you intensify your workout and burn more calories?
Researchers at Oklahoma State University tested these poles, not with vigorous arm swinging on a flat surface (which another study found increased exertion), but as a prop in walking uphill.
Twenty men were fitted with 33-lb (15 kg) frame backpacks, and walked uphill at 1 ½ mph at a gradually increasing grade for 5 minutes, then continued for 10 more minutes at a peak grade of 25 percent.
Whether they used hiking poles or not had no significant effect on their heart rate, breathing, oxygen consumption, or calories burned.
It did, however, affect the hikers' perceived exertion (RPE), which was lower when using hiking poles, especially towards the end of the 15-minute hike.
The stabilizing effect of the poles may have made the hiking seem more comfortable and therefore, easier, even though physiologically, exertion was the same.
Source: International Journal of Sports Medicine, July 2000; 21, 5, 356-359