Do poles save energy during steep uphill walking?
- 68 Downloads
In trail running and in uphill races many athletes use poles. However, there are few data about pole walking on steep uphill. The aim of this study was to compare the energy expenditure during uphill walking with (PW) and without (W) poles at different slopes.
Fourteen mountain running athletes walked on a treadmill in two conditions (PW and W) for 5 min at seven different angles (10.1°, 15.5°, 19.8°, 25.4°, 29.8°, 35.5° and 38.9°). We measured cardiorespiratory parameters, blood lactate concentration (BLa) and rating of perceived exertion (RPE). Then, we calculated the vertical cost of transport (CoTvert). Using video analysis, we measured stride frequency (SF) and stride length (SL).
Compared to W, CoTvert during PW was lower at 25.4°, 29.8° and 35.5° PW (\( -\) 2.55 ± 3.97%; \( -\) 2.79 ± 3.88% and \( -\) 2.00 ± 3.41%, p < 0.05). RPE was significantly lower during PW at 15.5°, 19.8°, 29.8°, 35.5° and 38.9° (\( -\) 14.4 ± 18.3%; \( -\) 16.2 ± 15.2%; \( -\) 16.6 ± 16.9%; \( -\) 17.9 ± 18.7% and \( -\) 18.5 ± 17.8%, p < 0.01). There was no effect of pole use on BLa. However, BLa was numerically lower with poles at every incline except for 10.1°. On average, SF for PW was lower than for W (\( -\) 6.7 ± 5.8%, p = 0.006) and SL was longer in PW than in W (+ 8.6 ± 4.5%, p = 0.008).
PW on steep inclines was only slightly more economical than W, but the substantially lower RPE during PW suggests that poles may delay fatigue effects during a prolonged effort. We advocate for the use of poles during steep uphill walking, although the energetic savings are small.
KeywordsEnergetics Vertical km Trail running Pole walking
We are grateful to all the athletes who participated in the study. We also thank Gloria Plett, MD, for her assistance during the testing.
NG, RK and SL conception and design of research; NG and MS conducted experiments and analyzed data; NG, RK and SL interpreted results of experiments; NG and MS prepared figures; NG drafted manuscript; NG, MS, RK and SL edited and revised manuscript. NG, MS, RK and SL approved final version of manuscript.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.
- Borg GA (1998) Borg’s perceived exertion and pain scales. Human Kinetics, ChampaignGoogle Scholar
- Duncan M, Lyons M (2008) The effect of hiking poles on oxygen uptake, perceived exertion and mood state during a one hour uphill walk. J Exer Physiol online 11(3)Google Scholar
- Grainer A, Zerbini L, Reggiani C, Marcolin G, Steele J, Pavei G, Paoli A (2017) Physiological and perceptual responses to nordic walking in a natural mountain environment. Int J Environ Res Public Health. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph14101235
- INWA (2017) https://www.inwa-nordicwalking.com.
- Peronnet F, Massicotte D (1991) Table of nonprotein respiratory quotient: an update. Can J Sport Sci 16(1):23–29Google Scholar
- Perrey S, Fabre N (2008) Exertion during uphill, level and downhill walking with and without hiking poles. J Sports Sci Med 7(1):32–38Google Scholar
- Sugiyama K, Kawamura M, Tomita H, Katamoto S (2013) Oxygen uptake, heart rate, perceived exertion, and integrated electromyogram of the lower and upper extremities during level and Nordic walking on a treadmill. J Physiol Anthropol 32(1):2. https://doi.org/10.1186/1880-6805-32-2 CrossRefGoogle Scholar