Ready to get firm all over? Just add Nordic poles to your walking routine. They engage the upper body, legs, arms, and abs, turning routine walks into whole-body workouts, says Suzanne Nottingham, author of Nordic Walking for Total Fitness.
In fact, this cardio-and-strength-training mix burns up to 20 percent more calories than regular walking. Plus, the poles take pressure off your knees and ankles, making your workout feel easier. Get started with these tips.
Tip #1: Make it a habit
To sculpt a sleeker frame in just four weeks, you have to work out regularly. Do three to four 45-minute Nordic-walking sessions a week.
Tip #2: Stride right
If you're a sloucher, short daily sessions will help straighten your stance. Just holding the poles activates your upper-body muscles, so you stand up taller.
Proper form is important, though. 'Nordic walking requires longer arm and leg movements than classic power walking,' Nottingham says. To begin, grip the poles lightly and stroll slowly, swinging your arms while allowing the pole tips to drag behind you.
Your goal: to eventually begin pushing off the rubber tips of the poles with every stride. 'Doing that will activate a lot more muscles, spreading resistance to the entire body,' Nottingham says. As you walk, keep the poles angled backward, your eyes up, and your chin level. As your right foot moves forward, allow your left arm to do the same; repeat with your left foot and right arm.
Tip #3: Pick the perfect poles
Poles come in both fixed and adjustable lengths. While fixed-length poles are cheaper, Nottingham suggests springing for an adjustable pair (you can get a good set under $100) so you can experiment with the height.
To find your perfect length, hold them so the tips are at the outsides of your heels. Gripping loosely, lengthen your arms so your elbows are slightly in front of your waist; your hands should fall slightly lower than your elbows. Two great adjustable pairs for beginners: LEKI Spin Pole Package ($90; leki.com) and the Exerstrider Prevention Project Pink OS2 ($90; walkingpoles.com). Now get out there and strut (and sculpt) your stuff!