Exercise fads have come and gone over the years, but the one that has never gone out of style is walking. Experts agree that walking is the best form of exercise you can do—it delivers countless health perks, from easy weight loss to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, better immunity, stronger bones and more.
“I recommend walking to my patients because of the positive effects it has on metabolic health, mood and stress levels,” shares integrative and functional medicine physician Sara Gottfried, M.D., NYT bestselling author of Women, Food, and Hormones. “Don’t underestimate the power of walking.”
While walking alone delivers these incredible perks, there are all kinds of accessories you can bring along on your walk to make it even more effective, from ankle weights to heart rate monitors, step counters and more. But the one accessory that stands out? Nordic walking poles, which can help counteract pain, stability and balance issues, plus improve confidence.
These hiking poles (available at sporting-goods stores) originated in Finland in 1979 as a way for cross-country skiers to train in the off-season. By the late 1980s, the poles had become popular all over Europe for their superior toning capabilities, and they’ve become increasingly popular in America too!
Hiking poles speed slimming.
Walking poles perform a function similar to circuit-training machines, toning virtually every muscle in the body in a short amount of time. But the real body-sculpting prize is that, throughout the entire range of motion, the abdominal muscles are engaged. And pushing the poles forward with each step works the shoulders and upper arms, while pulling the poles back tones the back. Fans of the walking accessory also say holding the poles upright through the motion engages the body’s core to sculpt abs, so a simple stroll can deliver full-body firming. What’s more, Nordic walking burns 46 percent more calories than walking without poles. And researchers in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that women who walked with trekking poles increased their upper-arm strength and muscle tone over eight weeks. (Click through to learn how walking reverses fatty liver to speed your metabolism.)
Hiking poles ease pain.
Walking poles are a great tool for women who are just starting out walking, since they help support body weight, reducing pressure on the feet. And that can mean the difference between sticking with an exercise program and giving up. What’s more, one study of elderly people with chronic back, hip or knee pain found that walking with poles eased the pain in 12 weeks and increased the distance walked for 91 percent of subjects. If you decide to hit the trails with your walking poles for a hike, it will feel even easier than working out on asphalt or concrete, says women’s health expert Jamé Heskett, M.D., author of The Well Path. The reason? The softness of the dirt cushions joints, lessening the impact that can cause pain.
Hiking poles make walking easy!
Though this walking accessory deliver a full-body workout, women who walk with them don’t feel like they are working any harder. Fitness experts say this is because the poles provide lateral stability and encourage proper posture, which helps walkers sidestep ankle, knee, hip and lower-back pain.
This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.
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