Ankle weights are a popular fitness tool (especially among peeps who love Pilates). They’re made of mini sandbags that strap around your ankles. Think dumbbells but for your feet. They usually weigh 1 to 3 pounds, and you can wear them as you go about your day or incorporate them into your workout routine.

Why weigh yourself down like this? There are plenty of health benefits to using ankle weights. Here’s what you need to know about them.

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1. Add resistance to your workout

Wanna spice up your bodyweight routine? Ankle weights may be the way to go! By adding an extra load to your body, these bad boys can help you get a more challenging workout. And it’s not just for strengthening moves.

Research suggests that adding ankle and wrist weights to your training routine can increase muscle mass.

2. May help with fat loss

Can ankle weights help you burn fat? They might!

One small 2016 study looking at the effect of light resistance training using ankle-wrist weights and dumbbells had promising results. Participants who used 1.1-pound ankle and wrist weights for about 20 minutes 3 times a week had decreased body fat percentage by the end of the 6-month research period.

3. Might improve balance

If you’re learning to walk again, ankle weights might help you get back on your feet.

How? Some research suggests they might improve your balance. A 2014 study focusing on people recovering from a stroke found that adding ankle weights to the stroke-affected leg improved the participants’ ability to balance.

Another study in 2017 focused on people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, a cluster of conditions that affect the lungs, causing breathing issues. The findings suggest that ankle weights helped make up for the decrease in participants’ muscle strength during their hospitalization.

4. Could make you better at walking

Some folks use ankle weights during their daily strolls, and they may be onto something. In fact, ankle weights could play a positive role in the way you walk.

According to a small 2017 study in healthy adults, wearing ankle weights of 1 to 2 percent of your body weight could be an effective way to improve distance, speed, and cadence when walking.

Before strapping on the Velcro, consider these tips that might help you get the most out of ankle weights:

  • Make sure you strap them on correctly. Your ankle weights shouldn’t be so tight that they bruise you, but they shouldn’t be so loose that they slide off, either.
  • Start out light, then increase. If you’ve never tried using ankle weights before, pick a lighter one, and then amp it up as you progress.
  • Find a sweet spot. Ideally, choose an ankle weight that is between 1 and 2 percent of your body weight.
  • Don’t overdo it! Wearing ankle weights for too long can cause injuries or throw off your gait. Fifteen-minute sessions twice a week can be a safe place to start.

Straight leg donkey kick

How to do it:

  1. Start on all fours on a mat, knees hip-width apart.
  2. As you engage your core, lift right leg behind you, straightening it as you lift.
  3. Push your foot straight back by engaging your glute, and then slowly lower your leg.
  4. Do 10 reps, then switch sides.

Kneeling side plank with leg lift

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your side, propped up on your bottom elbow, with lower leg bent and top leg straight. Place your other hand on the floor for balance.
  2. Breathe in as you gently lift your top leg to a comfortable height.
  3. Squeeze your glutes, and then, as you exhale, slowly lower your leg toward the back of your body and tap it to the mat.
  4. Inhale, lift your top leg back up, and lower back down to the mat in front of you.
  5. Do 10 reps, then switch sides.

Single-leg bridge

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your back with legs bent at a 90-degree angle and feet flat on your mat.
  2. Lift right leg straight up into the air.
  3. Engaging your core, press left foot against the floor and raise hips off the mat.
  4. Squeeze your glutes as you hold the position, and then let your hips slowly sink back down.
  5. Do 10 reps, then switch sides.

Superman

How to do it:

  1. Lie facedown with legs straight, feet pointed, and arms stretched out in front of you.
  2. As you engage your glutes, lift your legs and arms off the floor at the same time.
  3. Hold it right there for a second, and then gently return to the floor.
  4. Repeat about 10 times.

Despite their potential health benefits, ankle weights might not be for everyone. Here’s what to know before using ankle weights.

Who should use them?

Ankle weights are great for adding resistance to your strengthening routine. They’re the ideal partner for you if you’re looking to complement your existing workout routine.

Who should avoid them?

If you have any ankle, knee, or hip conditions or are recovering from an injury, you should prob avoid wearing ankle weights unless a healthcare professional recommends it. They can put extra pressure in those areas and lead to muscular imbalances (especially if you use them while walking or running).

Still don’t know if you should use ankle weights? Talk with a certified personal trainer or fitness instructor. They can give you personalized advice on what tools might be best for your workout goals.

  • Ankle weights are a fitness tool that can help add resistance to your regular workout.
  • Some potential health benefits of ankle weights include helping with fat loss and improving balance.
  • Ankle weights should be used only for short periods of time. Wearing them for too long may cause injuries and muscular imbalances.
  • Anyone with a hip, knee, or ankle condition or injury should avoid using ankle weights unless directed by a healthcare professional.
  • If you have questions about ankle weights, ask a professional for personalized advice.