Picture this: You're enjoying an epic hike in a beautiful mountain range when a coyote suddenly appears on the trail ahead. The wild dog looks angry. How will you defend yourself?
Here's a solution: Use a trekking pole!
Now, you know. Trekking poles can be a lifesaver.
Even if you are great shape, trekking poles have many benefits. Poles don't just take pressure off of your knees; they also make your trek more intense, provide you better balance and protect you from wild animals (lions and tiger and bears, oh my!).
Read more to find out why experts and research all come to the same conclusion: If you're going to trek, bring a pole.
Your Knees Will Thank You
If you have to take ibuprofen after a hike because your knees are screaming at you, read closely. According to a study by the Journal of Sports Medicine, trekking poles decrease the compressive force on the knees by as much as 25 percent.
Less stress on your knees means you won't be in nearly as much pain when you finish. Which means you'll be able to get out for your next hike that much sooner. Now, that should make you want to say, "Yeah!"
You Won't Destroy Your Joints
One of the main drawbacks of hiking is the long-term damage it can cause to your joints--especially when you walk downhill. According to research published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine, stress on the femoropatellar joint (at the top of the knee) is three to four times greater when walking downhill.
Trekking poles can alleviate some of that stress. As the American College of Sports Medicine concluded in a study, trekking poles can help "reduce the loading on the joints of the lower extremity." So, before you depart on your next excursion, know this: A trekking pole will keep your older self from cursing your younger self.
You Can Improve Your Posture
Don't slouch when you walk. Poor posture can cause numerous medical issues, such as slowing down your metabolism, worsening back pain and increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Trekking poles can help you stand properly as you hike, as they naturally encourage you to walk the correct way. Not only can this help prevent the medical issues described above, but it can also open up your chest and rib cage, allowing you to breathe better. That's good news because part of the reason you came out to hike is to enjoy the fresh air. So, take in even more of it.
You're Less Likely to Fall
Based on CDC research, unintentional falls are one of the leading causes of accidental deaths. Unfortunately, hiking is one activity where unintentional falls are more likely to occur. But don't freak out yet! You can greatly lower your chances of falling by bringing one or two trekking poles.
According to Lindy Smith, a Nordic walking teacher, because trekking poles provide two extra contact points with the ground, they "improve posture, balance, and stability." This makes sense. For example, if you're trekking uphill, a pole can keep you from falling backward. Or, if one of your feet slips on the wet spot, walking sticks can help maintain your place.
Burn more Calories
One reason people love hiking is that it gives you a workout. After a trek, you want to feel great and look great. Who doesn't?
Well, a way to burn more calories is to use a Nordic walking pole (which is much like a trekking pole). According to a study by The Cooper Institute, Nordic walking poles can reduce caloric expenditure by up to 20 percent. This is because trekking poles get your whole body working out. Those arms aren't allowed to relax.
You Have a Fighting Chance Against Wild Beasts
If you encounter a big grizzly, chances are you'll be scared. Fear of being attacked by large animals in nature is a legitimate concern. Nobody is laughing at you. Just know that a trekking pole gives you a chance to ward off an angry animal. You weren't planning on using your fists, were you?
While trekking poles can't help in stopping mosquitoes (which are one of the deadliest animals), they can give you a fighting chance against other man-killing creatures, like snakes, hippos, and buffalo.
Getting the Right Trekking Pole
The benefits of trekking poles can only be enjoyed if you get the right one for your body and use it correctly. When choosing trekking poles, you should look at the quality closely.
For example, a good trekking pole has the following characteristics:
- Natural cork grips: This reduces the chance of the pole slipping out of your hands.
- Lightweight: The goal of the hike is to be moving. If the pole is heavy, it will be too much stress on you.
- Fast lock mechanism: This can help prevent a fall from happening.
- 100 percent carbon fiber: This is shock-absorbent material that can minimize the impact on your knees.
- Collapsible: You want a pole that's convenient for packing. Not one that can't even fit in your trunk.
There you have it. You're aware of all the reasons you need a trekking pole--and what makes a good one So, get a trekking pole today, and get hiking.