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Volunteer for new urban poling study

This September, Dr. Agnes Coutinho, Assistant Program Head of Kinesiology, is launching a new study on the health benefits of urban poling. Dr. Coutinho is looking for staff and faculty volunteers from the University of Guelph-Humber and Humber College to take part, so she can assess the health improvements that come from urban poling while at work. Although it’s an exercise study, Dr. Coutinho isn’t concerned with the question of whether taking part will make participants fitter, build muscle and improve their cardiovascular health. She already knows that it will.

“We know that exercise is good for us — that’s not up for debate. There’s ample research showing exercise’s benefits and that being active during work is good for health and increases productivity. What I’m interested in knowing is how urban poling affects people’s moods, energy levels, sleep quality and mental health,” says Dr. Coutinho.

The study, titled Walk Away Stress: Urban Poling, will have participants try urban poling for eight weeks, going for 15-60 minute walks at least twice a week. Along with being trained by a certified urban poling instructor, participants will respond to a series of questionnaires about their health and mood, so as to assess urban poling’s effect.

Dr. Coutinho says that despite the well-known benefits of exercise programs in workplaces, there’s a persistent problem of getting people to maintain participation.

“This is a common problem for exercisers everywhere, but research has shown that urban poling has better adherence rates. People tend to have a better chance of sticking with urban poling rather than they do just walking,” she says.

Urban Poles, crossed

There are a few reasons that help explain why that’s the case. Because urban poling is often done in a social setting and while outside, Dr. Coutinho says that it helps improve other markers of human wellness. Urban poling can improve our emotions, satisfy our social needs and expose us to soothing environments, which is why Dr. Coutinho’s study will have participants take to the Humber Arboretum’s 250 acres of green space.

Even though she’s not investigating the physical health benefits of urban poling, Dr. Coutinho says it has an impressive track record.

“When we walk, we’re really only exerting the muscles in our lower body, but when we use the poles correctly, it makes use of your whole body,” she says. “Urban poling activates the muscles in your lower body, plus your core, back, shoulders and arms, giving resistance training to your upper body and burning more calories than you would without the poles.”

Despite the extra muscles used and calories burned, research has shown that walking with the poles gives people lower rates of perceived exertion. That means that even though they’re physically working harder, they feel like they’re working less. 

All staff and faculty are eligible to participate, and the poles will be available for signing out at UofGH’s front desk or the Humber Fitness Centre, so participants can walk at the time that suits them best.

 To sign up to participate in the study, email Dr. Coutinho.