Running with weights

Should You Try Walking with Weights?

Walking with weights has its share of pros and cons. It’s important to know what they are before you start your exercise plan using wearable weights.

Hand Weights Pros and Benefits

According to the American Council on Exercise, adding extra weights increases your total mass which boosts the intensity of the activity. Walking with weights can increase your heart rate by 5 to 10 beats per minute and increase oxygen intake by 5 to 15%. You will also burn 5 to 8 more calories per mile while walking with weights.

However, adding weights also increases the ground reaction force or the force exerted by the ground on your body. Therefore it’s ideal to use hand weights ranging from 1 to 3 pounds while walking. Weights greater than 3 pounds are not recommended by the council as they may put undue stress on the arms, shoulder muscles and joints.

Another possible benefit to using hand weights is that it combines aerobic exercise with weight training.

Hand Weights Cons and Dangers

Many specialists think that walking with hand weights, ankle weights or any wearable weights can be risky over time.

The American Council on Exercise notes that hand weights while walking may cause an “exaggerated blood pressure response” in some people. As such, the ACE recommends wrist weights as opposed to hand weights.

Research on the subject of hand and wrist weights seems to point towards the fact that two-thirds of the increase in oxygen uptake and calories burned can be attributed to “active engagement of the upper extremities” instead of the weights themselves. In other words, you might not need hand weights to get the same results to begin with. You just have to swing your arms more while walking in order to have the same benefits.

A better alternative is to use a weighted vest. The body is able to handle more load if the midsection is heavier than the extremities. According to Harvard Medical School, the pressure it puts on your bones can “nudge your body to produce new bone cells” which helps to fight bone loss. Just be sure that the weight you use does not exceed 10% of your body weight. For a 150 pound woman, you should not exceed 15 pounds. An additional 10% to your mass also means a 10% increase in ground reaction force. People with back, neck, spine, and shoulder issues like spinal stenosis or disc degeneration should not use weighted vests as the excess weight may aggravate their issues further.

The problems with using ankle weights are that they can cause postural imbalance and put stress on your joints. You may not be able to see the damage after just one walk but overtime the stress on your knees and joints will affect your gait and posture.

What Should You Do?

Some specialists believe that you are better off adding a proper weight training regimen to your workout rather than wearing wearable weights when you run. But if you want to incorporate wearable weights to your workouts, talk to your doctor first. Do not start a training plan with wearable weights if you have back, shoulder, joints or balance issues. Once you have your doctor’s approval, start with a 1 pound weight and then gradually increase the load as you progress.


Walking with weights has its share of pros and cons. Hand and wrist weights can increase your heart rate by 5 to 10 beats per minute and increase oxygen intake by 5 to 15%. You will also burn 5 to 8 more calories per mile. But they may cause strain on your shoulders, arms and joints. Similarly, ankle weights may cause postural imbalance overtime. So it’s important to keep the weight between 1 to 3 pounds max or wear a weighted vest or belt. The body can handle the added weight when it’s concentrated around the midsection rather than the extremities. Do not exceed the recommended 10% of your body weight for weighted vests or you risk developing posture and back issues in the long run. Talk to your doctor before you start any workout plan with wearable weights and especially if you have back, shoulder, joints, gait or balance issues.


"Do the benefits outweigh the risks if individuals hold dumbbells in their hands while doing step aerobics or other cardio activities?" - American Council on Exercise, December 08, 2010
"Wearable weights: How they can help or hurt" - Harvard Health Publishing, May, 2018
"Should You Buy Walking Weights?" - Very Well Fit, May 29, 2019
"Effects of load carriage and footwear on lower extremity kinetics and kinematics during overground walking" - ScienceDirect, October, 2016
"Read This Before Walking With Weights" - My Fitness Pal, June 8, 2018
“Is walking with weights good for you? Inquiring mall walkers need to know” – Well and Good, September 28, 2018