Wednesday, February 14, 2007

In praise of trekking poles

We're seeing more and more hikers on the trails using trekking poles. Treking pole fans swear by them for their ability to help ease stress on the lower body. Now, a university study backs that up. The study, by investigators at Western Illinois University in Macomb, Ill., and Willamette University in Salem, Ore., found that using poles while hiking downhill appears to ease muscle activity and strain on the knees and ankles, even when hiking with a heavy pack.
Here's the rest of the AP story: “The poles were effective across the board, with or without the pack,” says lead author Michael Bohne, an assistant professor of biomechanics at Western Illinois University. Fifteen male hikers recruited from a Salem hiking club were studied while walking down a specially designed ramp with embedded sensors to detect impact. In separate trials, they walked with and without poles while wearing either no pack, a light pack (15 percent of body weight) or a heavy pack (30 percent of body weight). According to the mathematical models used by the investigators, use of trekking poles resulted in a significant decrease in pressure to the ankle and knee joints, suggesting that they could, in the long term, reduce pain and overuse injuries.


zen said...

One wonders why we are still spending money studying this. European scientists studied and answered this question years ago. Seems like a waste of research dollars to me.

MB said...

The studies that were done in Europe examined only the ground reaction forces. While that was valuable information, it offers no information regarding the joints themselves. This study was much more in depth than the previous studies, examining joint torques and power (increasing information about the activity occuring at the joints) goes far beyond that done in previous studies.