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Weight Loss

These Two Sisters Walked Off 373 Lbs – Here’s How Walking Poles Helped Them Succeed 

Susie Maines, 71: “Take one easy step at a time. You won’t believe how far you can go!”


We’re constantly hearing about the benefits of walking – and for good reason! The free exercise is helping people heal their health, lose weight and transform their lives for the better. Now, folks are adding walking poles to their workouts to make their walking for weight loss routines both easier and more effective! Just ask sisters Becky Thomson and Susie Maines, who walked off a collective 373 pounds using the strategy. Read on for their inspiring story – plus why walking poles for weight loss work.

What are walking poles?

Walking poles, also called Nordic walking sticks or hiking poles, are specialized poles made for outdoor activities like hiking. They’re typically lightweight with easy-grip handles and can be adjusted for height. As you walk, you plant the poles on the ground, helping to engage the upper body while keeping you stable and balanced. And when it comes to walking for weight loss, walking poles can make a major difference.

Related: We’ve Tried Every Walking Accessory to Make Our Walks Better at Fat Burning, and This One Is the Winner

Mature woman walking down a path outside using walking poles
PhotoAlto:Frederic Cirou/Getty

How walking poles enhance walking for weight loss

Created in Scandinavia to help cross-country skiers stay fit in summer, Nordic walking sticks “up your walking game,” says How Not to Diet author Michael Greger, MD. How? They provide support that makes walking feel easier and breezier while slashing injury risk. They also dramatically reduce knee and hip stress and discomfort. Indeed, they’re a great option for folks with hip and knee issues, since they reduce the force of each step by as much as 28%.

Regular walking works only your legs. “Adding Nordic poles activates upper-body muscles as well,” notes Massachusetts General Hospital cardiologist Aaron Baggish, MD. So 80% of you gets firmer and stronger — and, per studies, you burn 46% more calories. Bonus: Cholesterol and heart health improve more than with regular walks. (There’s no need to pick up the pace, either – slow walking also boosts weight loss.)

Walking poles before and after success story

Before and after photos of Becky Thomson and Susie Maines, two sisters who lost a collective 373 lbs by walking
Jeff Miller

“Why are you emailing me? I’m right here!” chuckled Becky Thomson, glancing at her sister Susie Maines. Ever since bad knees forced Susie to retire and move in with Becky and her husband, the sisters had shared a home office where they’d surf the web and plan adventures for their golden years. Of course, at over 325 pounds each and in constant pain, they had limited options — unless they made changes.

“Read what I sent you,” urged Susie. “It sounds doable.” A lover of all things sparkly, Susie had stumbled on a free weight-loss site called (now an organization called Spark America) and decided it was fate. Becky wasn’t so sure. “No diets,” she insisted. “I refuse to starve ever again.” Suddenly, Susie had an idea: “Tell me what you want to eat, and I’ll find a way to make it healthy.”

How Susie and Becky changed their diets

Susie was the more hopeful one on that spring day in Wisconsin, but she understood how Becky felt. Both had battled extra pounds their whole lives, enduring failure after failure. Susie recently looked into gastric bypass but couldn’t even manage to lose 35 pounds to qualify. “They wanted me to drink shakes and be miserable,” she thought, typing basic info into the Spark site. But this seems different. So different, in fact, that the site calculated she could have 2,200 calories a day. Was it too much? She read posts from other dieters; they seemed to be happily succeeding.

In the days that followed, Susie experimented with lightened-up chili, casseroles, pot roast. She typed it all into her food log, which tracked calories and helped make sure her meals had enough energizing nutrients like protein and fiber. By the time Becky signed up for her own account, the pair were down an easy 12 pounds each.

Becky and Susie’s walking journey begins…

Becky was officially excited. Eyes shining, she turned to her sister and asked: “Should we try exercising?” Susie grimaced. “I can barely walk 30 feet,” she said. So it was Becky’s turn to be the problem-solver.

“Let’s just walk and see how far we get,” Becky begged. “It can’t hurt to try!” So they set out. By the end of the driveway, Susie’s lower half was on fire. “I have to go back,” she said. Becky made it to the end of the block before collapsing beside her sister. “Let’s try to go a little farther each day,” Becky panted. Susie just sighed. (Considering a walking routine? Try fasted walking for quick results.)

Walking pole breakthrough

Later that night, they told their oldest sister, Karen, what had happened. “Do you still have Mom’s old canes?” Karen asked. “They might help Susie.” Becky fished them out of the garage. Using two at once, Susie made it half a block. Then Becky had a light-bulb moment: She’d gotten a job at Lands’ End, and they were offering employees a great deal on Nordic walking poles. Might the poles help more than canes? The sisters watched a video online and decided yes. Becky bought two pairs, and as soon as the sticks were in their hands, the movement felt natural. That day they made it four blocks! “I didn’t have pain in my hips or even my knees,” Susie marveled afterward.

Block by block, Susie and Becky extended the distance they covered in their neighborhood, passing landmarks like a school, church and hospital. People saw their walking poles and asked, “Are they worth it?” The sisters answered: “Absolutely!” The poles not only relieved pain but also helped them stay balanced and stand taller so they could step farther and faster. “It’s really so much easier than regular walking,” Susie marveled. (Another beneficial walking strategy to try? Rucking, or weighted walking.)

Becky and Susie today, 373 pounds slimmer

By the time the women could walk 2 miles, they felt gleeful — which made them extra-motivated to eat well. As pounds and health issues steadily disappeared, one day it hit Susie: “I turned to my sister and said, ‘We’re actually going to make it this time, aren’t we?’” The answer soon became clear: Susie lost 186 pounds in about two years, while Becky ultimately shed 187 pounds. Becky got rid of her asthma inhaler and CPAP machine. Susie got off cholesterol medication and hasn’t felt hip pain since.

And even though the sisters seemed to be mirror images of each other, Susie slimmed down about two times faster than her older sis. “It took my body a little longer, but the important thing is I still got there. So I always try to encourage people to be patient,” says Becky. “Your body may not lose as quickly as someone else’s, but it can still do amazing things — and the rewards of hitting a healthy weight are huge.”

Says Becky, 74: “Once you’re at a certain point, you might think, It’s too late for me. But look at us! We turned everything around just by eating food we enjoy and using gentle exercise.” Susie, 71, agrees: “Take one easy step at a time,” she says. “You won’t believe how far you can go!

Related: Lose Weight Without Weight Loss Surgery: How 7 Women Did It

What to eat while walking for weight loss

Experts agree walking works best paired with a nutrient-dense, portion-controlled diet. To make it easy, Becky and Susie used free tools to keep calories at 1,800–2,200 daily. Want to follow their lead? Try some of these favorite recipes. Always get a doctor’s okay to try any new diet or workout.


Make an omelet with 3 egg whites, ½ cup veggies, ¼ cup cheese, cooking spray and seasoning to taste.


Brush eggplant with 2 tsp. olive oil; season. Top with 2 Tbs. pizza sauce and ¼ cup mozzarella. Bake at 425ºF.


Broil ¼ lb. tilapia with 1 Tbs. butter and seasoning to taste. Serve with ½ cup veggies and ½ cup brown rice.

Bonus recipe: Mini cheesecakes

Mini cheesecake on a plate topped with cherry pie filling
Image Professionals GmbH/Getty


  • 12 vanilla wafer cookies
  • 3 oz. cream cheese
  • 12 oz. fat-free cream cheese
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ tsp. vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups cherry pie filling


  1. Line muffin tin with cupcake papers; put a cookie in each.
  2. Beat cream cheeses until smooth. Beat in sugar and vanilla. Add eggs until smooth.
  3. Pour batter in tin. Bake at 350ºF until mostly set, 20 min.
  4. Chill overnight. Top with cherries.
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