Walking sticks provide surprising bonus to your exercise routine

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By James Raia
One challenge for RV enthusiasts is how to efficiently store sometimes bulky exercise equipment. Walking sticks can be stored about anywhere.

Folding bikes and collapsible kayaks help define the axiom of big things in small spaces. But there’s another likely unheralded option — walking sticks. They’re available in fixed length, adjustable styles and folding varieties and are ideal for campground walkabouts or more adventurous treks.

Using walking sticks provides an increased use of fitnes and they're easy to stow in RVs.
Using walking sticks provides an increased level of fitness and they’re easy to stow in RVs.

Sometimes called walking poles or Nordic poles, walking sticks first became en vogue in Finland in the 1930s. Skilled cross country skiers unknowingly started a year-round fitness trend.

The country’s athletes won four medals, including two gold medals, during the Winter Olympics in the 1930s. But with success comes expectations, and when there wasn’t enough snow for normal training, the Finnish athletes became innovators. They began using their skiing poles during dryland training.

A staple for Europeans for decades for recreation enthusiasts of all ages, the benefits of exercising with walking poles are now appreciated globally. Increased use of more muscle groups, less impact on joints, proper posture alignment and improved breathing have fostered the popularity. With increased muscle use, more calories are burned.

Black Diamond Trail trekking poles are top-ranked by many consumer websites and specialty publications. A variety of styles for general and specialty uses are available at Dick’s Sporting Goods around the country.

“We liked that they didn’t vibrate (some poles wobble) on uphills or downhills,” said Jenni Gritters in a Black Diamond review on gearpatrol.com. “They provided good traction in muddy spots or where rocks were loose, and we came home with happy knees and ankles.”

Many other national specialty outdoor retailers carry LEKI hiking and trekking poles, including the women’s-specific Cressida. “The Aergon Thermo foam compact (faux cork) grip is smaller in overall dimensions to better fit a woman’s hand along with a shorter strap for less bulk,” the company’s website details. “The entire pole configuration is lighter and shorter to allow for more compact stowing into smaller packs.”

“Our tagline is ‘walk, run, play.’ We are a lifestyle company more than anything else,” said Will Scott, the inventor and lead designer at DynamoMe.com, a prominent national mobile device company based in Florida. “Inventing a product is not enough. We want to let people live their lives with a tool that can take them to any place they want to be.”

The mobility device company recently introduced Prime Stick, marketed as “the first urban cane that converts into a walking stick.” The Prime Stick is a versatile hybrid, ideal for mountainous treks, flat trails and walking on sidewalks. The flexible footing is secure in all weather conditions.

Scott, a former international-caliber taekwondo athlete who has endured many injuries and surgeries, invented the Prime Stick for all-ages use. “With the design of our sticks, I wanted to get rid of the stigma that walking sticks are for the infirm,” he said. “Society has kind of helped us get rid of the stigma with younger people doing hiking and walking.”

Prime Stick features an EVA foam handgrip and a lightweight aluminum core with a foam-covered upper post for versatile, sweat-absorbing and non-slip gripping. The tether is ergonomic for wrist support.

“The demographic part of it is amazing,” said Scott. “We have had a kid using them who broke his leg and a grandma who likes it better than her cane because she has more stability and feels safer.”

Dr. Edward R. Laskowski, M.D., a sports medicine, fitness, strength training and stability training specialist at the Mayo Clinic, the American nonprofit academic medical center, extols the benefits of walking poles. “Walking poles work your arms, shoulders, chest and upper back muscles through a functional range of motion as you walk,” he said. “It helps you turn your daily walk into a full-body workout.”

Editor: The DynamoMe Prime Stick is available at Amazon.com.

James Raia, a syndicated columnist in Sacramento, California, publishes a free weekly automotive podcast and electronic newsletter. Sign-ups are available on his website, www.theweeklydriver.com. He can be reached via email: james@jamesraia.com.

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Digby
14 days ago

Here’s a factoid we picked up from our travels across this marvelous country:
The 1800’s version of the walking stick was used by our Woodlands Tribes. (It also doubled as a spear). Those were a foot or more taller than the one using it – to clear the spiderwebs as the top of the pole rotated forward. Those of us who have done the ‘spiderweb-in-the-face’ dance would have appreciated one of those!

mike
14 days ago

I use a single walking stick with a hidden spear head. Only had to remove the cap for the spear once while hiking on a trail in National Forest. Bone head dog owner did not keep his dog on a leash and as he came charging down the trail I removed the cap. Fortunately for the dog his owner called him back, just saying…and then there are strangers in them there woods…better safe than sorry. Also used the stick for crossing streams, holding up a lean too, and supporting my back pack used as a back rest when taking a break.. its use is only limited by your imagination.

Steven Scheinin
14 days ago
Reply to  mike

I, too, use a wooden single walking stick with the spear head. As a full time RVer, walking and hiking are my main form of exercise. I use the spear head on all dirt trails as it helps stabilize. Right now I am in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. I think my stick is better on these steep dirt trails than the author’s.

Ellen
15 days ago

Right after I started using my Leki hiking poles (yet another name for them) I noticed I could go farther than without them and I immediately felt more stable on rocky trails. We hike a lot where there aren’t trails, picking our way along high desert hillsides, and these give me more confidence than I have without them. I agree with the comment about getting sticks that allow each section to be adjusted and locked. They aren’t meant to be used as crutches — you don’t want to lean your full weight on them (some people I’ve seen seem to think you can) but rather to adjust your balance along the way. I wouldn’t hike in some places without them!

Irv
15 days ago

If you’re going to heavily use walking sticks, a major factor in your purchase should be the cost and availability of replacement parts. Especially the lower-thinner shaft. At some point you’re going to slip or trip and the lower pole may get bent. Being able to replace just that shaft can save a lot of money in the long run.

Tripping is a lot more likely if you’re hiking steep rocky trails than just walking on sidewalks.

I found that poles that lock the sections with a lever are a lot easier to use and last longer than those that twist lock or have a button-release.

Ray Leissner
15 days ago

I support the promotion of walking sticks. Their greatest benefit is provided that extra support when traversing difficult terrain. However, this article almost reads like a commercial. I would add that many parks offer badges that can be attached to the wooden walking stick, thus offering a walking history of the many trails and adventures one will take over time as an avid hiker. They make quite a keepsake and source for stories and conversation.

Bill Semion
15 days ago

There’s a gentleman in MI who sells one-piece (these won’t collapse on you at inopportune times, in other words). I have a set, and they are great. Here’s the website: https://skiwalking.com.

Donald N Wright
15 days ago

I was introduced to Trekking poles at REI before my first Backpacking Trek to Philmont Scout Ranch in 2011. They really help, much better than a single staff. I still use them on hikes.

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Kim Christiansen (@imkimc)
18 days ago

Walking sticks were recommended to me to manage my gait when recovering from hip surgery. I had no idea they helped in other ways as well… time to get them out of the back of the closet 🙂