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Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2000 Dec;32(12):2093-101.

Muscular and metabolic costs of uphill backpacking: are hiking poles beneficial?

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Department of Exercise Science, University of Massachusetts, Amherst 01003, USA.



The purpose of the present study was to compare pole and no-pole conditions during uphill backpacking, which was simulated on an inclined treadmill with a moderately heavy (22.4 kg, 30% body mass) backpack.


Physiological measurements of oxygen consumption, heart rate, and RPE were taken during 1 h of backpacking in each condition, along with joint kinematic and electromyographic comparisons from data collected during a third test session.


The results showed that although imposing no metabolic consequence, pole use elicited a longer stride length (1.27 vs 1.19 m), kinematics that were more similar to those of unloaded walking, and reduced activity in several lower extremity muscles. Although pole use evoked a greater heart rate (113.5 vs 107 bpm), subjects were backpacking more comfortably as indicated by their ratings of perceived exertion (10.8 vs 11.6). The increased cardiovascular demand was likely to support the greater muscular activity in the upper extremity, as was observed in triceps brachii.


By redistributing some of the backpack effort, pole use alleviated some stress from the lower extremities and allowed a partial reversal of typical load-bearing strategies.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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