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Seniors encouraged to take up urban poling

Mary Jane Berry of Elmira is a jack of all trades when it comes to fitness for senior citizens. Certified in reflexology, Japanese alternative medicine Reiki, heated stone massage and physiotherapy for a host of different body parts, as well as ear candling, Berry is adding one more facet to her expansive skill set: urban pole walking.

Urban poling, or Nordic poling as it is sometimes known, is a form of exercise in which you walk with a specially designed pole in order to engage a greater number of muscles than simply walking or jogging.

Mary Jane Berry demonstrates the technique for urban poling. She's now offering instruction to area seniors.

“It’s ideal for people who are looking to increase their physical activity level,” explained Berry, who has 25 years of experience in long-term care and has just started offering classes in urban pole walking for seniors. “By walking with these poles, you burn more calories and you engage more of your core muscles.”

Essentially, each time the walker swings their arm forward, they plant their pole into the ground and as they walk to push off or themselves forward. The form of exercise evolved from an off-season ski-training activity known as ski walking, hill bounding or ski striding to become a way of exercising with poles year-round.

Ski walking and hill bounding with poles has been practiced for decades as dry-land training for competitive cross-country skiing. Ski coaches saw the success of world-class cross-country skiers who used ski poles in the summer for ski walking and hill bounding, and it became a staple of off-season Nordic ski training.
Hikers with knee pain discovered they could walk more powerfully with a pair of trekking poles, often eliminating or reducing hip, knee, and foot pain.

The result, according to Berry, is a full-body walking workout that can burn significantly more calories without a change in perceived exertion or having to walk faster, due to the incorporation of many large core and other upper-body muscles which comprise more than 90 per cent of the body’s total muscle mass.

“The baby boomers are all getting to the age where they will experience joint pain and muscle fatigue,” explained Berry. “So many people are getting hip and knee replacements and so much of that stress on the body is preventable with some simple exercise.”

Berry, who currently teaches a weekly fitness class at Elmira District Community Living, is now a certified instructor of urban poling and has started a new business, ‘Seniorcize S.O.S (Supporting Our Seniors)’ in which she will be instructing in-home lessons to seniors in Woolwich Township.

“It’s not only for seniors – anyone can participate. It’s a great cardio workout for anybody, but as I am starting to get older and feel the joint and muscle pain, I want to get more involved in the elderly community.”

For more information about urban poling or to register for instruction, contact Mary Jane Berry at 519-669-2359.

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