Pole Appeal: Fitness at any Age
I may be walking with poles as I stride through the trees, but group leader Barb Gormley is quick to point out that unless I’m using the proper technique, I may as well be walking with sticks. Gormley, the director of education for Urban Poling – a company that promotes what is also known as Nordic walking and sells the poles – is guiding a group of us through the trails of Toronto’s High Park. The regular members of this particular group, ranging in age from 20 to 70, meet every Sunday. Newcomers are shown the basics using lightweight poles, which have an ergonomic strapless handle and boot-like tips.
The incentives to use the right technique are compelling. As opposed to walking, which only engages the muscles under your belly button, urban poling uses 90 per cent of the muscles in your body by bringing the upper body into the workout.
Graham Watts, a co-founder of Urban Poling Inc., says Activator poles are also a useful aide in preventing falls. “For a lot of seniors, confidence becomes an issue, and now you have two poles in your hands, so you have this added support,” he says.
Using the poles reduces impact on the knees, hips and ankles. Also, users show improved posture and improved bilateral and rhythmical movement.
But don’t think only people with restraints on their mobility can get a workout from urban poling. One proponent of this fitness activity is Lynn Kanuka, who is best known for her bronze medal performance at the Los Angeles Olympic Games in 1984.
Even as a high-level performance athlete, Kanuka finds that walking with urban poles provides a baseline for fitness and gets her outside.
“I think I’m stronger in my running at this stage of my life because of my Nordic walking,” she says. “I’ve never enjoyed my own walking or running more.”
Another low-impact activity that Kanuka raves about is the new StreetStrider, for which she is a dealer in British Columbia.