While the terms walking stick and trekking pole are somewhat interchangeable, a hiking stick is usually a singular device used to assist a walker's balance or used as a crutch, whereas trekking poles have traditionally been used to assist hikers with their rhythm and provide stability on rough terrain.
Of course, both types of poles can be used for multiple purposes--everything from clearing away spider webs to a defense against wild animals, but they are primarily used to balance when crossing water or rough or rocky terrain and as a support going uphill or brake going downhill.
Hiking sticks or staffs can be made of a variety of materials, but are most commonly made out of wood or lightweight aluminum. Trekking poles are usually lightweight aluminum, frequently jointed in two places so the poles can be extended to suit the walker. An inexpensive and light-weight stick or pole is suitable for beginner hikes, but sturdy poles are a must for longer hikes over rough terrain.
Both kinds of poles can also be used to help with knee or hip pain by reducing stress to joints and can assist with endurance. They can also be used like a cane if a walker is injured. In addition, walking using two trekking poles is good for the heart, blood pressure, and overall exercise capacity.
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