Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Kinesiology




Suzanne Phelan


An increasing amount of hikers have added hiking poles to their outings to aid in reducing fatigue of the lower body and enhance stability. However, very little research has been conducted on the use of poles during continuous uphill hiking. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of pole use under field conditions on the rate of perceived exertion, physiological variables [oxygen consumption (VO2), heart rate (HR), non-protein respiratory exchange ratio (RER), & total energy expenditure (TEE)], and time to completion during a 1.68 km continuous uphill (12.6% grade) hike. Ten male and ten female (Mean age = 22.7 ± 2.0 years) hikers participated in this experimental study using a within subject cross over design with randomized, counter-balanced order. Participants hiked with and without poles, at self-selected speeds. Rate of perceived exertion was collected at five minute intervals. Physiological measures (V02, HR, RER, and METs) were measured continuously (every two seconds) during all hiking conditions using a portable metabolic system (VmaxST, SensorMedics, Yorba Linda, CA). Heart rate data was recorded by a Polar transmitter belt worn by the participant with a receiver integrated into the VmaxST base system. Hiking pole use resulted in increased oxygen consumption (M= 29.8 ± 2.6 ml∙kg⁻¹∙min⁻¹ vs. M= 28.6 ± 2.8 ml∙kg⁻¹∙min), and total energy expenditure (M= 223.3 ± 57.9 kcals vs. 209.6 ± 47.7 kcals) compared to hiking without poles. Duration, RER, HR, and RPE were not significantly different between conditions. These results indicate that the use of hiking poles during uphill hiking increases the energy cost of hiking without increasing the perceived exertion in novice pole users. To fully evaluate the effects of hiking pole use and confirm the results from this study, future field research should be conducted with and without poles, including novice and expert groups, at grades above and below 15 %.