Date of Award


Document Type

Scholarly Project

Degree Name

Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)


Physical Therapy

First Advisor

Meridee Danks


Accidental Falls; Aged; Exercise -- physiology; Motor Activity -- physiology; Physical Fitness -- physiology; Risk Factors; Walking -- physiology


Introduction: Age-related changes in adults over 60 include reduced mobility and function as well as an increase in frailty. Conventional walking has been shown to be an effective physical activity to maintain mobility and improve function and overall health and fitness. Specifically, walking speed has been identified as a crucial predicting factor for fall risk and decreased functional mobility. For this reason, clinicians considered the element of walking speed as the sixth vital sign. Pole walking has gained popularity over the years and may provide additional benefits, when compared to conventional walking, such as improved stride and step length, faster gait velocity and cadence, increased strength, enhanced postural alignment, advanced dynamic balance, weight loss, and improved cardiovascular responses following exercise.

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to determine the effects of pole walking on overall physical functioning of community-ambulators 60 years of age and older.

Methods: Eleven healthy older adults participated and completed pre- and post-participation fitness screens and surveys. The fitness screen included implementation of the Senior Fitness Test (SFT) battery, gait analysis through use of the GAITRite, and posture images. Each individual was provided and fit with walking poles and received general instruction on walking technique. All subjects participated in the experimental group, completing 45-minute exercise sessions, consisting of warm-up, pole walking, and cool down, two times per week, for six weeks.

Results: Data analysis consisted of paired t-tests (a = 0.05) to identify comparisons throughout SFT tests, posture, and gait parameters. Significant improvements were identified within the 30-second chair stand test, 2-minute step test, heart rate, posture, and weight, as well as gait parameters including: step length, gait velocity, cadence, and degree of toe-in/out.

Conclusion: Based on the evidence provided, it can be concluded that, in healthy older adults, pole walking can improve lower extremity strength, endurance, enhance posture, decrease weight, and improve multiple gait parameters. It may be hypothesized that other populations with pathologies, that inhibit the efficiency of gait, could reap the benefits that regular pole walking provides and experience substantial improvements regarding parameters as discussed within this study population. Pole walking is applicable and appropriate to a wide array of individuals and provides a motivating and optimistic mindset that encourages physical therapy patients to be an active participant in their care and improve their quality of life.