Poles boost benefits of walking

What can help you tone your upper body, make you burn more calories while walking, relieve stress on your joints and give you stability on hills or uneven trails?

Diane Oliphant (left)

What can help you tone your upper body, make you burn more calories while walking, relieve stress on your joints and give you stability on hills or uneven trails?

Nordic walking poles, and Active Comox Valley (ACV) has just added them to its lending library, which gives Valley residents a chance to borrow fitness equipment for free.

ACV added the Nordic walking poles to its lending library to provide more options for residents.

“Because of the aging population in the Valley, we felt we should enable the population to try something new that they maybe didn’t have the means to do or weren’t aware of the tools,” said co-ordinator Robyn Butler. “We find not only the aging population can use it, but all ages, but it seems quite popular in that demographic.”

ACV conducted a survey in May and found that walking was the most popular activity among residents, and applying force to the poles with each stride gives walkers a chance to improve their cardiovascular workout and engage their upper body and core, and it gives them more stability, noted Butler.

ACV launched its lending library this year because part of its mandate is to provide free and low-cost recreation activities.

“It’s a good way to try out equipment to see what type of activity works for you and how you can fit activity into your day,” said Butler. “It’s a great way to jumpstart your exercise program or mix it up by trying a new activity.”

ACV offers WiiSports consoles and activity bins featuring exercise equipment.

The Nordic walking poles — which are telescopic and can adjust for different heights — have been added to the offerings.

“We thought this way, we’re providing a tool for every age group,” said Butler.

Diane Oliphant, Judy Kerkhoff and Heather Ferraby already know the benefits of Nordic walking.

The three friends have been Nordic walking for five or six years, and they meet three mornings a week at various locations to walk for an hour.

Ferraby had seen something about Nordic walking that piqued her interest, and then they took a lesson with Don Deese at Seal Bay Park.

“We’d been walking with poles but just needed the finesse,” said Kerkhoff.

They all feel the Nordic poles make walking a better exercise.

“It’s very good for the upper body,” said Oliphant. “It certainly works your cardio more than regular walking.”

“It lengthens your stride, which means your core is initiated more than straight walking,” added Ferraby. “It’s very rhythmic, so you get into a pattern. It definitely helps you keep up your pace.”

The poles also help them get uphill better, and it gives them some stability, they noted.

“In the woods, it’s very good,” said Ferraby. “They use it all over Europe for hiking.”

Oliphant finds she gets to a stage where she depends on the poles a bit.

Ferraby agrees.

“I really like them,” she said. “I feel lost without them because I’ve made it such a habit for that kind of walking.”

Oliphant feels Nordic walking offers many benefits for seniors.

“I really do think for seniors it’s a really good thing because of the balance and support,” she said.

There is no cost to borrow items from ACV’s lending library except for a credit card deposit in case of lost or damaged items.

Items can be borrowed for up to two weeks at a time by calling the Comox Valley Sports Centre at 250-334-9622 ext. 233 weekdays between 9 .m. and 3 p.m.

Butler also encourages people to pick up ACV’s 12 Great Places to Get Active for Free maps, which provide information about local walking and cycling routes. The free maps are available at recreation centres and can be downloaded from www.activecomoxvalley.ca through the activities page.

writer@comoxvalleyrecord.com