— Life —

Hiking Poles Not Just for Trekking

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There’s an organized group of walkers where my folks live that requires all participants use walking sticks or hiking poles, simply because they lessen the likelihood of falling. They’re lightweight aluminum, collapsible and sporty looking, so it doesn’t look like you’re using canes. In general, older folks are reluctant to use canes because it makes them look… old. I decided to try them out, and here are my findings and opinions, regarding walking sticks.

They improve your balance by giving you four points of contact with the ground. Why don’t horses trip and fall? Because they have four hooves. If one gets caught up, they still have three more with which to correct themselves. We have only two feet, and when one slips or trips, you’re goin’ down, unless you’ve got some amazing balance.

News alert! As we age, our balance deteriorates!

You use more active hands and arms, and this in turn results in more use of core muscles. I’ve noticed when I walk for a few miles, my hands get swollen and stiff. Because my hands and arms are more active when I’m using sticks, that doesn’t happen.

The sticks feel the ground ahead of you, which results in less twisting of the knees and ankles. This is especially important as we age, when our knees might have a little arthritis and just don’t do well on uneven surfaces. Even canted sidewalks and streets can aggravate the knees. The walking sticks help you feel this unevenness and make slight accommodating adjustments.

They can assist when you’re walking up and down hills. To be honest, our knees really don’t like hills. The incline puts greater stresses on the cartilages in our knees. Any assistance, especially as we age, is much appreciated by our weight bearing joints.

Give them a try. Your knees will thank you!


  • Brenda Coffee November 8, 2016 at 8:45 am

    Right after I read this, I saw several women–of a certain age–walk into Whole Foods with their hiking poles. There’s a sporting goods store in the same mall. I wanted to run down and buy some poles and ask if I could join them. Again, what great info you give us, Barbara. Thank you, Brenda

  • Barbara Bergin, M.D. November 9, 2016 at 12:19 pm

    We need to start a movement: after which there will be less pain and fewer injuries. I’m always trying to put myself out of business!

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