Exertion during uphill walking with hiking sticks
F. Sevšek, P.Malešič
University College of Health Studies, University of Ljubljana, Ljubljana, Slovenia
Introduction. Recently, the use of hiking sticks in recreational walking is becoming increasingly popular, especially among elderly. Their use is being justified by reduced stress on lower limbs and spine, as well as by increased balance, ease of walking, reduced fatigue and additional exercising of the shoulder and arms musculature. In spite of the importance of the issue, the problems regarding the use of hiking sticks have not been entirely solved. The questions like, when to use hiking sticks, do they increase the energy expenditure of walking or not, and how should they be used in patient rehabilitation, are still being debated. It was thus of great interest to perform a field study of the use of hiking sticks where the energy expenditure and the rate of the perceived exertion would be measured.
Methods. Ten young, healthy subjects, 5 males and 5 females, body mass index 22 kg/m2 (SE±1 kg/m2), 24 (±0.6) years old, walked with their optimal pace up a slope with the average inclination of 12 degrees and 206 m altitude difference. The test was performed twice: with walking sticks and without them. Heart rates were measured by Polar Vantage monitors and a visual analogue scale (range 1 to 7) was used to determine the perceived exertion after each trial.
Results. The subjects reported significantly (p<0.05) smaller exertion after walking with sticks than without them (difference 0.8± 0.3). As the average walking speed was typically higher while walking with sticks than without them, the measured heart rates were normalized to the same speed. The average differences between normalized heart rates during walking with and without sticks (0.5 min-1 ± 5 min-1) were not statistically significant (p>0.45).
Discussion. Our results show that the energy expenditure in uphill walking on medium slopes, as determined by heart rate, does not change significantly with the use of hiking sticks. Anyhow, most of the subjects felt that walking with sticks was less strenuous than without them.