Blog Fitness Workout Plans Walking With Ankle Weights: Benefits, Drawbacks, And Essential Information

Walking With Ankle Weights: Benefits, Drawbacks, And Essential Information

We’ve all seen exercise complexes where you have to do so many movements at the same time that you have to read the description 5 times before attempting them. While it’s great for professionals, many beginners fear even starting.

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Yet exercise doesn’t have to be difficult. For example, walking has dozens of benefits for your health and weight. Sounds like an easy start, right?

Heart condition prevention, immune system boost, and joint health are the major perks of daily walks. But what if we use a bit of extra load? I’m not talking about shopping bags (although sometimes this works). I mean ankle weights.

Logically, that would increase the number of calories you burn. But there are risks.

Due to the heavy (and effective) marketing, some people decide to use such weights for regular tasks like going to the grocery store. But is it safe? Today, we’ll know the answers and try to clarify whether walking with ankle weights has more benefits than drawbacks.

Walking With Ankle Weights: Benefits And Drawbacks

The Pros

So, is it good to walk with ankle weights?

Yes, if you’re careful and use standard weights of 1-3 pounds.

Basically, they help you to add load on your lower limbs during exercise, allowing you to feel free and focus on the form instead of trying to hold a dumbbell or another piece of equipment with your leg.

There are many benefits to the SAFE use of ankle weights:

  • Leg Toning

“Will walking with ankle weights tone my legs?” is a very common question. Yes, using these weights will help you tone your legs. Regular leg raises work even without any equipment. But if you put a little weight on the exercise, it will be even more efficient.

Read More: Power Walking Technique For Beginners

walking with ankle weights benefits

  • Better Endurance

More weight means more force is needed for basic movements. This increases your stamina, which is effective for cardiovascular health improvement and fat loss (12, 4).

  • Increased Calorie Burn

Additional weight makes you spend more energy on the basic movements, not to mention more complicated workouts. Wearing 1-3 pound weights increases your oxygen intake by 5-10% (3). This, as a result, makes you burn more calories.

  • Better Workouts

For example, if you enjoy water aerobics and want to make it more difficult, swim weights are a solution. An interesting fact: swimming with such equipment won’t damage your joints. On the contrary, this activity can strengthen your knee and ankle joints.
Ankle weights also make abs workouts more challenging by creating additional resistance.

  • More Diversity

The equipment helps a lot when you want to diversify your workout routine.

  • Great For Senior Citizens

A light resistance will help elderly people maintain their bone and joint health. In particular, the approach can soothe joint repositioning (6) and stroke recovery (11).
Besides, weight training also improves the density of your bones and can help prevent osteoporosis (10).

See also
Stationary Bike Workout Plan For Weight Loss And Muscle Gain

walking with ankle weights benefits

The Cons

There’s one disadvantage to wearing ankle weights – injury risk.

Improper or excess use of weights may cause injury due to balance loss and falling (2). Plus, the mechanics of running with ankle weights may be disrupted, which often causes ankle and knee pain.

Your joints may strain from overload. This is one of the most common answers to the question “What happens if you walk with ankle weights all day?”

Furthermore, it’s not recommended for children to wear ankle weights. Negative consequences include short limbs, misshapen bones, early arthritis, and more (7). This may happen because growth places of the long bones are open until a person hits teenagehood.

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What Research Says

Ankle weights may seem a relatively new invention, but they’re not actually. Marketing efforts are much more effective now, that’s all. These weights were studied since the 1990s and even earlier (1).

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Swimming Workout Plan For Beginners

The clinical uses of ankle weights were mostly focused on rehabilitation balance and studying walking gait in the older people (6) and those recovering from stroke events (11).

As to fitness uses, ankle weights have proven to be effective for healthy individuals. For example, as a result of a 12-week study, people using elastic bands and ankle weights have grown a kilogram of muscle mass (4). Older people have achieved results after as early as 8 weeks of training.

walking with ankle weights benefits

The Safe Use Of Ankle Weights: Recommendations

WARNING: If you feel any discomfort or have a pre-existing health condition, make sure to consult your doctor before attempting to walk in ankle weights or use them for workouts.

If, after comparing the pros and cons, you still decide to try using additional weights for walking, let’s establish a set of safety guidelines:

  • The combined weight of the equipment should be 1%-2% of your body weight (never more than 3%). 
  • Exercise regularly, about 3 times a week, in 20-minute sessions or more, to achieve results and give your joints the time to get used to such training.
  • To improve the quality of movement, consider wearing ankle weights for slow, steady walks outside.
  • Don’t wear ankle weights all day.
  • Start with the minimal weight and increase it gradually if needed.
  • For wide-range exercises, use lighter weights.

Top question: How long should you walk with ankle weights? 

As mentioned above, 20-minute sessions are enough, but make sure you feel comfortable. Overuse of any type of equipment will lead to negative consequences (8). Sprain, soreness, and exhaustion are the best-case scenario. In worse cases, injuries may be more serious and need medical attention.

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Weight Types

Ankle weights aren’t the only type there is:

  • Wrist Weights

These are effectively used during upper body workouts and help people who have a weak grip or feel discomfort when holding a dumbbell. Using wrist weights for walking isn’t the best recommendation because you swing your arms a lot, which may strain and injure your joints and tendons in your neck, shoulders, elbows, and wrists.

  • Weighted Vests

These vests have pockets for weights and a strap in the middle for stability. They are quite beneficial when you work out, increasing the load on your back, glutes, legs, and core. However, they put a load on your spine, so if you have back or neck problems, it’s better to choose ankle or wrist weights.
Talking about ankle weights vs. weighted vest, both have their pros and cons and you should use a type that is suitable for your workout routine, walking habits, and doctor recommendations.

See also
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Important: Make sure your weighted vest doesn’t exceed 10% of your body weight.

Summary

The best ankle weights use is:

  • In a controlled training environment where you mind how you move.
  • Supervised by your coach or doctor if needed.
  • When the equipment doesn’t exceed 3% of your body weight.

You should also remember that this approach shouldn’t be the only one you use. Weights are a part of a fitness routine, along with dumbbells, barbells, and cardio. Create a diverse plan that will incorporate walking, other types of cardio, and weight training.

Now, let’s review the best exercises with ankle weights aside from walking and techniques to amp up your stroll routines.

Read More: Should You Eat Before Or After Walking To Lose Weight?

walking with ankle weights benefits

Effective Ankle Weight Exercises

We’ve reviewed the benefits of walking in ankle weights and established that it’s OK but not necessary. If you still want to try using such equipment, include the following exercises for the best results.

Important: Do 3×8 reps with a light weight if you’re a beginner.

#1: Arm Circles 

  1. Stand tall and put your arms in a T position to the sides.
  2. Start rotating your arms forward at a comfortable amplitude.
  3. Stop and start rotating your arms back.
  4. Release and go for another set.

#2: Leg Raises

  1. Begin in a table position.
  2. Extend one leg and start raising it up and lowering down.
  3. Do 8-10 reps and repeat on the other leg.
  4. Release and go for another set.
See also
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*You can also raise a bent leg to perform a donkey kick.

#3: Single-Leg Glute Bridge

  1. Lie on your back and bend your legs, bringing the heels to your hips.
  2. Extend and raise one leg.
  3. Use the other leg to lift your hips, focusing on contracting your glutes.
  4. Keep the back straight, hold for a second, and lower your hips.
  5. Do 8-10 reps, release, and repeat on the other leg.

#4: Superman Hold

  1. Lie on your belly and extend your arms forward.
  2. Raise your legs and arms, contracting the glutes and pointing your toes.
  3. Hold for 1-2 seconds and release.

#5: Knee Flexion

  1. Stand still and grab a chair to hold on to it for balance.
  2. Bend one knee and reach your glutes with your heel.
  3. Make sure the weight is on the other leg.
  4. Lower the working leg and repeat with the other one.

walking with ankle weights benefits

#6: Side-Lying Hip Abduction

  1. Lie on your side, put one hand under your head to support it.
  2. Bend the leg that’s on the ground to remain stable.
  3. Raise the other leg and lower it, contracting the working glute.
  4. Repeat on the other side.

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#7: Hinge Lift

  1. Stand still, leaning forward a bit.
  2. Keep your hands in front of you for stability.
  3. Lift one leg and keep the other one a little bit bent at the knee.
  4. Repeat 8-10 times and do the same with the other leg.

#8: Side Leg Raises

  1. Stand still, keep your hands locked in front of you for stability.
  2. Raise one leg to the side and lower it slowly.
  3. Do 8-10 reps and repeat on the other leg.
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#9: Around The Clock

  1. Stand still, keep your hands locked in front of you for stability.
  2. Lift one leg at 90 degrees and rotate it at roughly 45 degrees.
  3. Lower your leg, then lift it again and come back to the starting position.
  4. Do 8-10 reps and repeat on the other leg.

Don’t do all of these exercises in one session if you’re a beginner. Create a routine with 3-5 exercises and increase the number of reps or the weight of your equipment when you feel like the workout is too easy.

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Techniques To Improve Your Walks Without Ankle Weights

There are other ways you can energize your fitness walks:

  • Try walking faster
  • Choose inclined roads
  • Diversify with light jogging
  • Walk on sand or grass

Hill-climbing is an especially effective method that helps you achieve all the same results as ankle weights but without such a high risk of injury and the need for supervision (9, 13). If it still sounds quite boring, play your favorite music, choose a step-counting app, and set goals for extra motivation.

Again, make sure you don’t overdo it. Even an easy exercise like walking may injure your knees and ankles if you do it too much without preparation or after a long pause. Remember, consistency is the key.

The Bottom Line

Ankle weights definitely have their perks and may contribute to your fitness journey. They are perfect for people who hate holding dumbbells and don’t have enough time for full training. Clinical and fitness studies prove this approach effective.

That being said, you should learn how to use them safely to avoid muscle strain, joint injury, exhaustion, and other potential side effects.

The best scenario would be to enjoy regular walks outside and use additional weights only if it’s a controlled training environment. Besides, you can use the equipment in a myriad of other exercises. Try the ones from this article and balance out your fitness journey injury-free!

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DISCLAIMER:

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

SOURCES:

  1. Ankle weighting effect on gait in able-bodied adults (1990, europepmc.org)
  2. Could ankle weights help me get more out of my usual walking routine? (n.d., mayoclinic.org)
  3. Do the benefits outweigh the risks if individuals hold dumbbells in their hands while doing step aerobics or other cardio activities? (2010, acefitness.org)
  4. Dumbbells and ankle-wrist weight training leads to changes in body composition and anthropometric parameters with potential cardiovascular disease risk reduction (2016, researchgate.net)
  5. Dumbbells and ankle-wrist weight training leads to changes in body composition and anthropometric parameters with potential cardiovascular disease risk reduction (2016, www.sciencedirect.com)
  6. Effects of wearing ankle weight on knee joint repositioning sense in the elderly (2016, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  7. Growth Plate Fractures (n.d., kidshealth.org)
  8. Managing Overuse Injuries (2015, tandfonline.com)
  9. Peroneal muscle activity during different types of walking (2018, jfootankleres.biomedcentral.com)
  10. Strength training: Get stronger, leaner, healthier (n.d., mayoclinic.org)
  11. The Effect of Treadmill-based Incremental Leg Weight Loading Training on the Balance of Stroke Patients (2014, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  12. The effects of ankle weight loading on the walking factors of adults without symptoms (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  13. The impact of incline and speed of treadmill on ankle muscle activity in middle-aged adults (2016, www.bodyworkmovementtherapies.com)
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