Before You Buy Walking Weights

Walking with Ankle Weights, Heavy Shoes, or Hand Weights is a Bad Idea

Young woman exercising with wrist weights. George Doyle

Is wearing weights when you walk a good way to increase your walking workout, burn more calories walking, or to tone the upper body while walking? The short answer is no. Using any walking weights is a bad idea.

In asking numerous coaches, physical therapists, physicians who specialize in physical medicine, and walking experts, not one recommends using them for your walking workouts. All agree that adding weights at the ankle, wrist or foot may increase the risk of strain and injury.

None of them recommend heavy weighted shoes. There are better ways to tone your body and to burn more calories through walking.

The people who recommend weights and heavy shoes are those trying to sell them, not the experts who are looking out for your health and fitness. 

How to Burn More Calories While Walking

Adding weight will allow you to burn more calories per mile, but only about 5-8 calories more per mile for every 10 pounds added. Compare that to walking a quarter of a mile - a 100-pound person burns 15 calories in a quarter mile at an easy pace while a 200-pound person burns 30 calories. That takes only five more minutes, and you aren't increasing your risk of injury.

Upper Body Toning

Wrist weights, hand weights, and various pulley systems, flexing devices, etc. tout themselves as giving you an upper body workout while you walk. However, they train you to use an unnatural and inefficient arm motion while walking.

Learn a proper arm swing instead, which will give you some upper body toning and help you move faster and easier and loosen up your shoulders and neck. Then take 5 minutes at the end of your walk with some dumbbells or resistance cord for an upper body workout.

Walk Faster or Walk Longer

If you have a limited amount of time in which to walk, then you can burn more calories and tone more muscles by learning to walk faster or to racewalk.

Racewalking burns 30% more calories per mile than "regular" walking or running because it uses and tones more muscle groups.

Walking Poles - Tone Upper Body and Burn More Calories

Walking poles tone the upper body and burn more calories per mile than regular walking. Walking poles are a far safer option than using weights. The exact opposite of ankle weights and heavy shoes - walking poles decrease the strain on your ankles, knees, and hips. When used properly they can relieve neck and shoulder tension.

Walking Weights

If you are stuck on the idea of using walking weights, your first choice should be a weighted vest or waist belt that distributes the weight naturally at your center of mass. If you really want to use ankle or wrist weights for toning, select the lightest ones to reduce the risk of injury.

Heavy Shoes or Weighted Shoes

Several companies are touting heavy shoes, weighted shoes, or shoes specially designed with very large soles.

I have discussed these often with kinesiotherapists, physical therapists, sports medicine physicians, and other trusted experts. Each one has said they are a bad idea and are likely to lead to injury. Don't risk it, no matter how tempting the sales pitch. Use one of these other ways to burn more calories and tone your body.

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