Active Living with Walking Poles (Urban Poling)

February 2, 2020 in Health and exercise |

It is not uncommon to see someone strolling past with a cane, having to rely on it for balance and stability. But don’t be surprised if you see someone zip past you on the street, propelled by specialized walking poles. This is exactly what participating in a fitness activity called Urban Poling (aka Nordic walking) looks like. Just think of cross-country skiing (minus the skis) in an urban setting!

ACTIVATOR poles are a specialized kind of walking pole designed by a Canadian occupational therapist specifically for rehabilitation and active living. It continues to gain popularity among people looking to prevent falls by staying active. One of these individuals is Bob Lewis, who describes himself as follows:

I am 61, overweight and have Type 2 diabetes and [have] twisted my ankle a few times. Now, with the ACTIVATOR poles, I have no problems with balance, sore feet, or going downhill. I enjoy walking because I don’t have my fears of injury.”

Interestingly, perhaps the most valuable aspect of the poles is that they have a look and feel that represents active living in a way that traditional assistive devices, like canes, do not. Fourteen years since the development of the Activator Poles, many have embraced it as just that – a tool to promote active living. Letty Kurucz agrees with this perception of walking poles. She recalls that when her orthopaedic surgeon recommended a cane for her painful knee joint, she felt depressed and discouraged, perceiving herself as disabled at the age 42 and unable to be actively manage her weight. She felt helpless until she saw someone urban poling. At that moment, she recalls that one word came to mind: “Ability.”

You might be wondering about the benefits of walking with these specialized poles? That’s what Urban Poling Inc. founder and occupational therapist Mandy Shintani wondered after a neighbour from Sweden attributed the health of Scandinavians to their culture of walking and in particular, Nordic walking. Mandy was surprised to find independent research studies showing numerous benefits of pole walking in key factors related to preventing falls (as of December 2019, there are 280+ listed on PubMed!). For example: improving core strength, stability, posture, balance and also confidence for walking. Walking with poles offers these benefits because it engages approximately 90% of a walker’s muscles. Walkers actively swing their arms and shoulders while pressing down on the ledge of the poles’ handles with each step. Doing so contracts the core ab muscles giving the walker a full-body workout.

Conditions like osteoporosis, Parkinson’s, ABI and MS typically produce a stooped posture and a shuffling gait pattern, which are two factors that increase the risk of falls. ACTIVATOR poles support good posture by providing bilateral support while encouraging the walker to stay upright and lift their feet. 

Unfortunately, wintertime presents more challenges for walking due to rough and slippery roadside conditions. As a result, many older adults sometimes report feeling trapped in their homes. While walking on ice is not recommended, there are a few strategies for walking more safely in the winter. For example, taking off the rubber tip from the ACTIVATOR poles and using the carbide steel tip underneath, and also walking with supportive footwear and good treads.

With safety in mind, Mandy developed the ACTIVATOR poles with several features to improve balance and weight-bearing capacity. To learn about the research on the patented ACTIVATOR Poles and the walking technique designed for improving balance, go to

Whether you love walking and are looking for a way to make the most out of your walks or seeking a solution for fall prevention for your clients, one thing is for sure: adding a set of specialized poles to your walk might just be the answer!

For more information contact:

Dolly Mehta, BSc, MSc, MMgt, Health Promotion and Sales Manager, Urban Poling Inc.





T: 416.319.1900 | T: 1.877.499.7999 | F: 604.990-7715


Health Promotion, Urban Poling Inc., 416-319-1900


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