Benefits of Walking

Walking is an ideal form of exercise. It requires no equipment or expense and is one of the best ways for you to become more active. Regular walking can improve confidence, stamina and energy, and help control your weight. It can also keep your heart strong, give you more energy and help reduce stress. And, a nice walking stick can quickly become a good companion as you go on your hike and health walk.

Why use a walking stick?

Walking sticks are regular companions to people of all shapes and sizes, regardless of the type of walking. Anything from a simple afternoon stroll to a rigorous multi-day hike through the woods can be aided by a walking stick.  Such aids range from a simple stick made from a tree branch to specialized, ergonomic sticks purchased at high prices from outdoor-gear stores. Regardless of the stick you use, there are several ways they can help you.

(a)     Improved Upper-Body Workout
Using a walking stick requires lifting the stick, placing it ahead of you and helping support your body’s weight with your arms as you move. Over the course of a long walk, this can be a good workout for your arms and shoulders, helping you burn more calories as you exercise. You shouldn’t find yourself exhausted while using a walking stick, but the Mayo Clinic says the stick will increase the intensity of your workout.

(b)     Back and Joint Health
Walking sticks help redistribute your body’s weight–instead of all your weight coming down on your back, hips and knees, a walking stick displaces some of your weight from your back and lower body and supports it through your arms and the stick itself. This can reduce wear and tear on your joints and muscles, which can help people with arthritis or back problems. Walking poles also foster proper posture as you use them, particularly in your upper back. Proper posture helps distribute weight evenly and safely, reducing your risk of injury and improving your back health.

(c)      Improved Stability and Balance
When you walk over trails or other uneven surfaces, various obstacles or objects can make it difficult to maintain your balance, such as when you are going uphill, walking on soft or loose dirt, or stepping on rocks as you walk. Walking sticks help stabilize your body and reduce your risk of falling or slipping. The sticks also assist on hills by providing stability, especially as walkers become fatigued and their muscle strength and stability becomes less certain.

(d)      Self Defence
Carrying a walking stick gives many a sense of added protection and personal safety.  Aggressive dogs are less inclined to cause problems if the walker is in possession of a walking stick. We have added an article on the use of a walking for self defense which was published way back in 1901 and which makes for amusing reading today.

Many people see a walking stick as merely an orthopaedic device; something only to be used by the elderly or infirm. The hiker, casual walker, farmer or other country person knows better. A good walking stick, apart from its aesthetic qualities, quickly becomes a constant companion and something to be appreciated by its owner and admired or envied by others.

When out walking, a good stick is more than just a piece of wood to stop you falling over. It helps maintain the natural rhythm of your gait and seems to make the miles less fatiguing. At the same time it comes in handy for pushing aside brambles and nettles;  helping you scramble up a bank; or fending off fearsomely agressive dogs. (For some reason, the most aggressive dog will ease off once he notices that you are comfortably armed!). The farmer uses his stick to move animals around or to lean on while yarning with his neighbours.

It’s true that many of us will become infirm sooner or later and have a need for some sort of walking aid. But, why wait until then? Why not let a walking stick become your inseparable companion when out of doors?  Why not become accustomised to something you will enjoy using, something that looks good, feels good and makes others almost envious of seeing you out and about with a nice walking stick?

Caring for your Derryhick Walking Stick.

My walking sticks are finished to ensure durability for active use.  However, a little care and maintenance is advisable and will extend its working life.  Some tips that will help include: –

       1.       Clean off any accumulation of mud and grime by wiping with a damp cloth.

       2.       Always dry well if you have been using the stick in wet conditions.

       3.       Keep your stick(s) stored in a dry warm place but avoid leaving close to direct heat such as radiators or stoves.

    A well fitted ferrule will eliminate wear and tear to the tip of a stick.

Wood or Metal

The introduction in recent years of the ‘hiking pole’ has been hailed as a new invention developed from the poles used by skiers. In fact, there’s nothing new about it at all, it’s simply a metal or composite fibre walking stick. Its main selling feature is that it’s adjustable for length and can be collapsed when not in use. It is not exactly a thing of beauty, so it is usually hidden away behind a door or in a cupboard. It lacks that indefinable individual character of a real stick… at one with both its owner and the environment in which it is being used. The hiking pole is an artefact of modern industrial society that takes no account of individuality or character.  It cannot be denied, though, that it does offer adjustability which can be so useful in difficult terrain.

Artisan Skills
There have been walking stick makers for centuries. The manufacturing of even a plain chestnut crook involves 12 different skilled processes, including peeling, steaming, straightening, staining, varnishing and ferruling. A plain derby cane requires a minimum of 16 processes, rising to many more if it is decorated with scorched areas or carved spirals, or fitted with a smart brass collar. Often, very old, lovingly-maintained tools are used, and the required skills are passed down through generations of the same family. Making walking sticks is an art form in itself and it is important that the tradition should be maintained and upheld.

Charm
Very often one’s walking stick is much more than a mobility aid.  Frequently it is a friend and companion. Indeed, the style and type of a walking stick can be indicative of its user’s personal style.  A true countryman or woman is rarely seen out without his or her stick.  The walking stick becomes an essential item when walking the dog, following country sports, attending county fairs or just out for a walk.
Over years of use, a wooden walking stick takes on a patina of age and a charm all of its own. The loss of one’s valued walking stick can be quite upsetting for its owner because a walking stick is one of the most personal of all accessories and the focus of memories and events.

Q. Wood or Metal?

A. Modern aluminium canes have advantages such as adjustability and foldability and,  undoubtedly, have their place.   However, they can never replace the uniqueness, the idiosyncrasy and the charm of a totally natural wooden walking stick.

Q.  How does a wooden walking stick compare with a metal or collapsible walking stick?

A: Wooden walking sticks tend to have a natural feel and holistic appeal that metal walking sticks and canes simply can’t replicate. Aesthetically, wood trumps metal because artisans are able to create designs and patterns that simply are not possible to replicate with metal or mass-produced walking sticks. Wooden sticks offer the best of both worlds, i.e.beauty and utility.

Q. Is there a stigma around the use of a metal stick that does not always exist with a wooden stick?
A:
 Indeed so. In fact it’s not uncommon to find customers who see the use of a metal stick/cane as an admission of a medical problem whereas they look on a wooden stick/can as just a companion.