Obviously, we’re always thinking about how to get more bang for our buck with workouts. If you’ve been walking regularly, maybe you’ve started thinking about adding weights to your routine since you’d get a strength workout too.
This article will answer this question, looking at the benefits as well as the drawbacks, in addition to including tips for walking with weights and ways to burn more calories without adding weights.
What are the Benefits?
First, we need to preface this section by saying that the benefits are really only minor and the potential for injury is much greater. You can burn more calories by walking with weights because your overall body weight is heavier and therefore burns more calories.
If you use hand weights, you will increase your upper body strength because you’ll have to carry those weights around for the duration of your walk.
Finally, you will get a slightly better cardio workout because you’ll be working harder to account for the additional weight.
What are the Drawbacks?
That being said, the drawbacks significantly outweigh the benefits, and most experts agree that the risks are not worth the minor advantages that you might receive. In fact, walking with weights can be harmful to your joints.
This means that you have an increased chance of injury if you choose to walk with weights because the weights add stress to your joints and can create an unnatural walking form. One study found that even by adding 15 more weight increases the ground reaction forces.
Even using something like wearable ankle weights that seem like they would be safe can be a bad idea because they require different muscles to get your foot to move, leading to strains, injuries, and muscle imbalance.
What are Ways to Burn More Calories Without Adding Weights?
Why you started thinking about walking with weights will determine the ways that you might consider burning more calories without adding weights.
Walk Farther and Faster
Obviously, if you walk farther, you’ll burn more calories, and increasing your speed will help too although not as much as distance. If you do both, then you’ll definitely be able to burn a lot more calories without risking any injury.
You can easily add this to your routine even if you have a busy life. Just tell yourself you’re going to walk an extra ¼ mile or an extra five minutes just to encourage yourself to go a little farther and you’ll soon find yourself pushing that time to do a little more.
Use Trekking Poles for an Upper Body Workout
If you thought about walking with weights because you wanted to get in an upper body workout as well, consider using walking or trekking poles. This is especially ideal if you need to walk on trails and in nature.
You’ll help to tone your upper body as well as burn more calories walking as compared to not using trekking poles. Plus, they are the safe alternative to weights. They are designed to reduce the strain on your ankles, hips, and knees and may even relieve tension in your neck and shoulders.
Include Hills When You Walk
Another option if you’re looking to burn calories but you’re short on time is to start including hills during your walks. This will help you burn more calories than walking on flat terrain, and you don’t have to go farther or faster to accomplish it.
Make sure that you pump your arms as you go up hills, and you will even get a little bit of an upper body workout. Runners know that hills are speedwork in disguise and without being likely to induce injuries.
What are Some Tips for Walking With Weights?
If you’re absolutely insistent that you want to use weights while walking, you’ll want to follow these guidelines so that you minimize your risk of injury.
Use a Weight Vest or Belt
A weight vest or a belt is a safer choice because it distributes the weight more naturally and it’s at your center of gravity. The best place to add weight is around the trunk because it impacts your body’s mechanical processes the least.
While you might think that a backpack will work just as well, it’s actually different than a vest. The weight is on the front for a vest, which has a different impact than having a backpack on your back. If you don’t want to throw your back out, go for the vest.
Avoid Ankle and Hand Weights
You really don’t want weights on your extremities, i.e. your ankles and hands, because they make your muscles work in ways that they weren’t intended. While you might have hand weights lying around the house (even if they are really light), you don’t want to use them.
Ankle weights make it harder to lift up your legs, and hand weights make you more likely to swing your arms intensely, which can lead to damage to specific joints later on. You’re better off looking into other options.
If you really have to hold something in your hand, opt for a water bottle, ideally one that is designed to be carried for long periods of time. Then you’ll have hydration during your walk, and it won’t be as heavy as a hand weight.
Don’t Add Weights on Every Walk
You’re setting yourself up for injuries if you add weights on every walk, especially if you want every day. You’re just putting your body under a lot of stress every time that it has to carry extra weight.
If you decide to use a weighted vest, you’ll want to do it maybe once or twice a week. It should be a rare occurrence and definitely not the norm. You’ll also want to make sure that you start off with shorter distances with the extra weight and then gradually increase the distance.
Don’t Add Too Much Weight
Finally, this isn’t a bodybuilding competition, so don’t overdo it on the weight. If you decide to still want to add some weight, start small and move up.
This is where starting with a water bottle could be a good idea. You don’t have to purchase anything new and you can see how it feels.
If you notice that the added weight is changing your gait or form in any way, you’ve added too much and you need to lighten things up if not reduce them completely.
While it might seem like a great idea to walk with weights and burn some calories and even get an upper body workout in, there are better ways to do it. Instead of using weights, you might consider walking faster, using hills, or trying trekking poles.
If you still want to use weights, the safe way to do it is with a weighted vest or belt and making sure that it’s not too much weight and that you don’t use it too frequently. The goal is to get a better workout, not to injure yourself!