To me life is movement, vitality itself. I like to play tennis and dance, but walking, strength training and yoga have always been my staples. Yoga keeps me loose and calm, and a good workout leaves makes me feel strong. But walking has always been purely for pleasure. That is, until not long ago, when I discovered walking poles. What caught my attention is the workout they give the upper body. I was skeptical, but the multi-tasker in me awakened, so I borrowed a set from a friend and gave them a try. To my great surprise, my first 30 minute walk worked my upper arms and shoulders to fatigue, I was standing straighter, and felt great, like after any good workout. I was an instant convert.
Being one of those people who like to pile virtue on even the simplest pleasures if I can manage it, I got curious and did some more research. Tom Rutlin is the original inventor walking poles, which he calls Exerstriders Exerstrider Fitness Poles…work smarter, not harder!

There’s a version of them which are very popular in Europe, where it’s known as Nordic Walking. According to Tom, you simultaneously condition every major muscle in your body by virtue of the resistance you create by applying force to the poles as you walk. More than 50% of the body’s muscle mass is in the upper body, so you get a good cardiovascular workout too, while increasing your endurance, and muscle strength in your arms, shoulders, chest and upper back. Walking with them burns 25% more calories than fast-paced walking, though I admit I am still more or less of a stroller. Plus, if you’re a runner, or former runner who misses your vigorous workout, using them decreases stress on your knees.

There are a couple things to learn about finding the right poles for you. There are one piece and collapsible poles for easy transport. You need to find the right height, learn how to hold the strapless grips, and decide if you want all-terrain poles, including for serious trekking. Tom’s walking poles come with a 30 minute instructional video or DVD, and manual.

As bonus points, you might even find a community of afficianados in your area. I did. They are serious about their Saturday morning treks, and so now I have a ready crew that motivates me to get out early and explore new walking trails. You can find more information on Tom’s site.

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