Walking sticks (also called hiking poles) are common in Europe, especially in Switzerland and Austria, where you'll often see older adults moving briskly over alpine hillsides, walking sticks firmly in hand. Now they're catching on in the U.S., too, as they are quite useful and provide more of a workout than you would get otherwise. In the first place, the sticks help to support your knees and back when you're hiking or walking. If you have joint or knee problems, sticks can help by distributing your weight more evenly and giving you more stability. They also make uphill climbs easier and improve your hiking form by helping to keep your momentum forward, with your chest and arms out in front. You'll burn 20 to 25 percent more calories per walk as a result of putting your upper body muscles to work with the use of a stick.