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Shoalhaven Bushwalkers Inc.

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The New Rage in Bushwalking

Some call it pole walking, some call it a nuisance, but the fact is, there is something new and innovative coming to our attention. This idea or method of making bushwalking easier, more enjoyable and most of all, better for our health and well-being, is to walk with poles.

3.5 million Europeans have taken it up, it's extremely popular in the USA, and on my recent trip to Japan I came across many Japanese walking groups, many of them using the poles.

It matters not whether you are young or old, fit or not. Using the poles gives your arms, shoulders, back and hips 30% more workout than just plain walking.

It's a method of walking that takes some practice. There is a technique that needs to be adopted and then it's easy in keeping your weight, those flabby upper arm muscles, your heart rate and breathing in good condition. In fact, all your upper body benefits from the exercise you are doing for your legs, while walking.

Using two poles is the better, more balanced way to go. John and Gill Souter (who walk on our off track walks and write and publish bushwalking and hiking books) use two poles most of the time. However there are places that they don't work - in thick scrub it's time to pack them up and put them in your pack.

What types of poles are available? Naturally there are many, ranging from hollow metal poles in one piece, wooden poles, telescopic poles which compact down to 65 cm in length, fibre-glass and carbon composite, all of which cost money. They range from $29.95 per pole to over $200 - it depends on their lightness, quality etc. but generally you get what you pay for. If you just want to try them out, buy the cheapest and if you like them upgrade to something better. Of course they are going to wear out, get lost, broken or whatever, but you can plan around that idea.

You don't have to buy poles either - what's wrong with a good stick from the bush, a piece of PVC pipe from the workshop or a beautiful piece of bamboo varnished and hand-crafted by yourself or a friend?

The main thing is, it's extra stability, helps your mobility and it's easier on the joints as you transfer some weight from the legs to the arms. And they are extremely useful when rock hopping across or along creeks.

Already in our club I have seen the poles increasingly used. I personally like the telescopic poles and if you are a handy person, like Don Body, who put some Velcro on Bernie's backpack so the poles can be easily attached vertically on the outside for ease of use and putting away, you can adapt them for your own walking.

Enjoy your walking this season ...

Lauri Ball (May 2005)