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Urban pole walking gets Vancouver Island muscles moving

Ladysmith drugstore offers instruction and leads walks three times a week
Ladysmith urban pole walkers don’t let a bit of a drizzle deter them from their fitness at Transfer Beach Park. The free program put on by Pharmasave takes urban pole walkers around various areas of Ladysmith on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings. (Duck Paterson photo)


More and more people are getting into urban pole walking, which is considerably different than its far-removed exotic cousin, pole-dancing.

A group of people in Ladysmith have been gathering three times a week to go pole walking, which they say is beneficial for a healthy body and mind, activating more than twice as many muscles as walking without poles.

“Just ask anyone who has used them,” said instructor Joy Brooks. “It’s a form of walking with special walking poles that not only provide stability but they also give extra … core strength and balance.”

Ladysmith Pharmasave started the urban walking pole program last month as part of the store’s efforts to contribute to a healthy, mobile population.

“The town has a lot of hills and it can be a bit intimidating for folks who are thinking about getting out there and walking and improving their health,” said store manager Steve Wilkinson. “We felt with Joy and the classes it can help folks get into more physical activity and meet others as well.”

The pole walkers get together Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings, taking different routes with different degrees of difficulty. Brooks walks at the back of the group and monitors technique.

“The poles are like our legs but this way we have four points of contact with the ground so the stability is enhanced,” said Brooks.

There are two different types of walking poles, she said. Activator poles are more compact with a rounded tip for stability, making for shorter steps and less strain on hands and wrists, while urban walking poles have a tip shaped like a boot to provide better propulsion.

“Our group doesn’t have any criteria other than signing the standard safety waiver and there is a waiver that is required that says your health care provider has okayed this type of exercise,” Brooks said.

She said urban pole walking isn’t just a seniors’ activity and has health and fitness benefits for participants of all ages, but suggested that as people age they should be thinking about their physical wellness.

“As we move up the age ladder we need to start to prepare ourselves…” she said. “The sooner a person gets into it, the more comfortable they feel and the benefits happen sooner and last longer. A person should prepare themselves for balance and frailty issues before we get to them.”

Ladysmith’s urban pole walkers, who call themselves the Alley Cats, have reported improved energy and attitudes and have formed bonds with other members of the group, Brooks said.

“Nothing is more psycho-socially rewarding then getting together with others. Having a group working towards the same goal, on a consistent basis, takes away a lot of the ‘work’ feeling of physical and mental fitness,” she said.

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