A blog by runners. For runners.

Is walking with weights effective?

is walking with weights good or bad for you

We know strength training is a wonderful complement to a regular cardiovascular routine, and you may have even seen a fellow walker strolling along with hand or ankle weights – attempting to get all the benefits with one convenient workout.

But is walking with weights good way to enhance your workout or, conversely, a disaster waiting to happen?

First, it’s good know that for every 10 pounds you add to your body while walking, you only burn about five to eight extra calories per mile. So, if a 150 pound woman set out on a brisk 3-mile walk (4 mph or 15:00/mile), she would normally burn around 256 calories. This same woman taking this same walk – with two 5-pound weights – would only burn 15 to 24 calories more, for a total of 271 to 280 total calories.

I can see an argument that every calorie counts and, over time, all those small increments will add up to something big. As well, time is at a premium for most of us, so getting in any sort of strength training is better than none, if that’s the only other option. If you’re in either of these camps, it’s also important to consider the following:

  • Swinging around added weight up top can risk causing injury to your shoulders or the muscles of the upper chest. It’s better, instead, to walk and move your arms vigorously or use poles designed for hiking.
  • Ankle weights can wreck much the same havoc down below. Though you may not notice a difference at first, over time weights can lead to a number of nasty aches and pains like sprains, dislocations and ligament tears.
  • In either case, adding weight that isn’t normally there will certainly alter your natural stride and could lead to a host of other injuries that might keep you off your feet long enough to negate any added benefit.

What about adding heavy backpacks or vests? Well, many of these same considerations apply. However, if you’re training for an ultra distance event or hiking a long distance, it might be a necessity. Be sure to check out these thoughts of walkers (and runners) like you before you strap on the pack. And try choosing a design with the best ergonomics.

The good news: You can tone your upper-body while walking without any added weight or equipment. This 30-minute exercise sequence shows you how and uses your natural fist as the area of concentration. You can also divide your walk up and perform some body weight strength exercises in the breaks. For example, if you plan to walk for 1 hour, split it into four 15-minute segments – at the break, do push-ups, tricep dips, or any other sort of strengthening move you’re into.

And if you’d like more calorie burn from your walk, consider picking up the pace or adding intervals to your regular loop.

Written by Ashley Marcin.