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I love the conclusion, in slightly stilted English, of this paper on Nordic walking (a.k.a. walking with poles):
“The work of the upper extremities seems to be a luxury effort for Nordic walkers with a proper technique.”
The study is actually fairly subtle, tracking the pole force and oxygen consumption of walkers on grass, concrete, and rubberized track. Since the walkers had to work much harder on grass even though the pole forces stay the same, the researchers conclude that it’s the legs doing all the work — the arms are just “luxury!”
This is actually something I’ve been wondering about ever since I started seeing hikers zooming up and down mountains using those ski pole thingies. I’ve even been a convert, using them for a 12-day trek in the Rockies. Now they’re ubiquitous, and — German study notwithstanding — I’m curious about their benefits. Perhaps something to look into…