Boost calorie burn by nearly 20 percent

You can turn a walk into a whole-body workout with a pair of Nordic fitness poles — long, handheld poles modeled after cross-country ski poles. Pole walking (or Nordic walking) is a low-impact aerobic activity that strengthens the upper body… improves posture… minimizes back and leg strain… and boosts your calorie burn during a walk by almost 20 percent.

Picking poles. One-piece poles are safest, especially for seniors and people with balance problems, because they won’t collapse the way adjustable-length telescoping or twist-locking poles might. Test for size: Grasp the pole handle and place the tip on the ground a few inches in front of you, elbow bent and tucked into your side. If your elbow makes a 90-degree angle, the pole is the proper length. Or: Multiply your height in centimeters by 0.68 — the resulting number is your pole size. Choose poles with interchangeable tips — metal for trails, grass, sand or snow… rubber for pavement and mall walking. Poles are sold at sporting-goods stores and online (check 877-754-9255, www.skiwalking.com). Cost: $70 to $160.

Correct technique. To get started, swing your arms normally as you walk — left arm moving forward as the right foot takes a step and vice versa. As the right foot lands, bend your left elbow to 90 degrees and plant the left pole tip across from your right heel… then push the pole against the ground to help propel yourself forward. Keep poles angled rearward — they should never be farther forward than the front foot.

Goal: Walk at a moderate to brisk pace for at least 30 minutes five times a week. Pole-walking is safe for just about everyone — but it’s best to check with your doctor before starting any exercise program.