Walking with weights: benefits, how to do it, training example
Walking – without bells and whistles, just putting one foot in front of the other – has been repeatedly associated with improved overall health, including increased lifespan. Even walking for just 15 minutes four times a week has been linked to a longer life.
If you’re an avid walker and want to up your game, increasing your speed isn’t the only option. Walking with weights can add additional benefits to your walk. When it comes to walking with weights, there are several different types to choose from and it’s also important to consider the potential risks.
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What are the benefits of walking with weights?
Sarah Pelc Graca is a weight loss coach, NASM certified trainer and founder of Strong With Sarah. She says one of the benefits of walking with weights is that it increases intensity, which leads to greater calorie burn. She says it can also help build muscle, as the extra weight makes them work harder than they would without weights.
Like Pelc Graca, slimming coach, personal trainer and sports nutritionist Esther Before says that incorporating weight into your walk makes the muscles work a little harder, which can then make you stronger. “Walking with weights can help with activities of daily living because we often have to move from place to place while carrying objects in one way or another,” she says. When walking with weights becomes part of your routine, suddenly that grocery bag or laundry basket won’t feel so heavy.
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Still, both experts say there are risks to be aware of. Both point out that if you have weights in your hands, you won’t be able to catch yourself if you fall. It’s especially important to be aware of this if you have trouble maintaining your balance or are prone to falls due to a medical condition. Avant also says that if you have an injury, walking with weights could make the problem worse. For example, if you have weak ankles, it’s not a good idea to wear ankle weights on a walk.
“Adding resistance to your steps can add pressure and strain to your hips, knees, and ankles, so be careful if you’re someone prone to lower-body injuries,” says Pelc Graca. She also says it’s important to maintain good form while walking with weights to avoid muscle strain or injury. “Stand up straight, keep your abdominal muscles slightly engaged, relax your shoulders, and make sure your toes and knees are pointed in the direction you’re walking,” she explains.
If you think walking with weights can benefit you, then it’s important to consider what type of weights you want to use during your walks.
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Different types of weights to consider
There are several ways to incorporate weights into your walk: lightweight dumbbells, wrist weights, ankle weights, or a weighted vest. Pelc Graca says determining which one to choose depends on someone’s individual health goals. “If someone is looking to tone their legs, I would recommend using ankle weights,” she says. But if your health goal is to sculpt your arm muscles, she says wrist weights or holding light dumbbells will help. If you want to opt for ankle weights, Avant says to make sure they’re not too bulky. Otherwise, they will affect your gait.
Both experts say that of all the options, wearing a weighted vest is the one they recommend the most because it helps distribute the extra weight more evenly than hand or ankle weights. “Wearing a weighted vest can help improve core and back strength,” says Pelc Graca. Avant points out that using a weighted vest also frees up your hands, which is safer in case of trips and falls.
Once you have your weights and are ready to walk, you might be tempted to incorporate them into each walk. But Pelc Graca recommends using them only one to three times a week. This will give your muscles time to repair and recover. If you don’t take this time, you will be more prone to strain and injury. “Make sure you keep a moderate pace,” she says. “Faster isn’t necessarily better when you add weight to your walks.”
walking with weights
Below is a sample workout to try the next time you want to walk with weights, straight from Pelc Graca:
1. If you can, walk for three to five minutes without weights to warm up your body.
2. Grab a light set of weights or a weighted vest (1 to 3 pounds) and walk for five minutes.
3. Start taking 15-20 minute weighted walks.
4. To increase intensity, increase your pace slightly while maintaining good form.
Remember that walking without weights is always extremely beneficial for your health. Incorporating weight is just one way to intensify it. The most important thing is that you move your body in a pleasant way. After all, with any luck, you’ll be doing it for many, many years.
Next, discover the many mental and physical health benefits of regular walking.
- Sarah Pelc Graca, Weight Loss Coach, NASM Certified Trainer and Founder of Strong With Sarah
- Esther Avant, Weight Loss Coach, Certified Sports Nutritionist and ACE Certified Personal Trainer