Thinking about taking your walk to the next level? Here’s how adding weights to your routine can help you crush your workout goals. (And when it can do more harm than good.)
Adding wearable weights into the mix can have these benefits and more… but it can also come with some drawbacks.
Carrying extra weight can help increase the intensity of your walks. That’s because it provides more resistance for your muscles to work against.
Popular weight options include ankle weights, hand weights, weighted vests, and weighted backpacks.
What do the experts recommend? Weighted vests all the way. These vests provide better weight distribution than your other options. Say sayonara to unnecessary strain on your muscles and joints.
But it doesn’t mean that’s always the best option for you. For example, one study suggests that using ankle weights equal to 1 percent of your body weight can improve your walking ability.
Adding weights to your walking routine doesn’t come without risk. The same resistance that wearable weights offers to up the ante on your workout can also put strain and stress on your muscles and joints. This can lead to damage or injury.
When it comes to weighted backpacks, be careful. They’re easy to use the wrong way. Using a backpack (especially with extra weight) with poor form can put pressure on your back and spine, which can lead to injury.
Here are a few things to keep in mind if you’re ready to hit the road (or the track, or the gym).
Lighter is better
How much weight you carry is critical when walking with weights. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) recommends using hand weights or ankle weights between 1 and 3 pounds. If you’re a weighted walking newbie, start with 1 pound. If you’ve got a bit more experience, feel free to try 2 or 3 pounds.
The same rules apply if a weighted vest is more your thing: Start light. An older study suggests starting with a vest that weighs no more than 5 percent of your body mass. More experienced athletes can opt for higher poundage.
FYI: Always check with your doctor before kicking off a new exercise routine to avoid injury.
Weights aren’t for every walk
Weights shouldn’t accompany you on every walk. Try to opt for using weights only 2 to 3 times each week. While that might not seem like much, remember: while weights boost resistance and intensity, they also add strain to your muscles and joints. Using them too frequently increases your risk of injury.
Keep it short
Even seasoned pros should start small when adding weights to their walking routine. About 10 to 15 minutes is the sweet spot when you’re just starting out. You can gradually increase the length of your walk as your bod gets used to the additional weight.
Brisk walker? Not so *fast*, pal. Walking too fast with weights can wreak havoc on your joints. That’s why it’s so important to keep a steady pace. As you adapt to your new weighted circumstances, you can opt to increase your speed slowly over time.
Watch your form
One way to lower your risk of injury when walking with weights is to make sure you’re maintaining proper form when walking. Good posture is always important, but it’s key when using weights to help ease the stress and strain they put on your joints.
Stand straight, relax your shoulders, and keep your footing light to keep your form from going down a slouched path.
New to walking with weights or looking to spice up your tired old routine? We’ve got you covered.
Ready to give it a try? When you’re new to this type of exercise, use lighter weights and keep your weighted walk relatively short. Here’s a walking workout to get you started.
- Choose a relatively light weight. 1 to 2 pounds is a great start.
- Warm up. Start by taking an easy, slow 5-minute walk.
- Pick up the pace. Shoot for about 15 to 20 minutes, but don’t overdo it.
- Cool down. Slow it down and walk for another 5 minutes.
- Stretch. Lose the weights and settle into some solid stretches.
Make it harder
Try these tips to up the intensity of your walking workout:
- Add an incline. Whether it’s at home on the treadmill (or up and down the stairs!) or on an uphill walk, walking on an incline boosts the intensity of your workout, making your body work harder — especially where you’re wearing weights.
- Feel the need for speed. Running or jogging with weights may not be the best idea, but taking your walk from a stroll to a brisk pace can help you get more out of your workout. (Just make sure you work your way up to this speed so you don’t get hurt.)
- Clock more time. Once you’ve gotten used to shorter weighted walks, you can start working your way up to longer walks.
Walking in itself is a great form of exercise. Adding wearable weights (like ankle weights, hand weights, and weighted vests) can increase the intensity of your walks.
If you choose to use weights during your walks, keep a few things in mind:
- Don’t carry too much weight.
- Avoid walking long distances without experience.
- Stick to a manageable pace.
Talk with your doctor before adding weights to your routine. If it’s not right for you, they can make recommendations for some alternatives to amp up your walks.