Walking by itself is good for you. Depending on your pace, you'll either burn some calories or a lot of calories. It gives your cardiovascular system a workout while providing the kind of load-bearing exercises that lead to good bone health.
Ever tried walking with weights? Well, that makes the exercise even better. While you don't want to start with very heavy weights, especially if you aren't used to lifting them in the first place, even smaller resistance weights can add to the fitness benefits of the workout.
Looking for ways to incorporate weights into your daily walks? Here are some rewarding suggestions.
Types of Weights
There are several different types of weights that you can use while walking. Some are strapped onto your body, while others need to be carried. The location of the weights (how they're carried) and the overall amount of weight that you choose can change which muscles receive some extra exercise.
Ideal for people who have a hard time with wrist or hand weights, such as those who have carpal tunnel, a weighted vest is exactly what it sounds like. You wear this vest as you would an unweighted one, and complete your workout with it on.
Some vests have weights that can be removed or added in order to customize the weight, while others have them built-in, so they are completely standard. Either way, when you wear a weighted vest, you're working on building up your core (abdominal and back) muscles while you walk.
Exactly as they sound, these are weights that wrap around your wrist. Secured with Velcro fasteners, they stay in place as you swing your arms and help you work out your arm, shoulder, and upper back muscles. Although this type of weight usually comes in lower weights than traditional hand weights or dumbbells, they make it easier for you to use them, as your hands are left free.
If you're prone to tripping or have carpal tunnel or hand injuries that make it tough to hold weights, then the wrist variety is ideal for your needs. The only caveat is that you need to be careful when wearing a fitness watch or tracker on your wrist because you can't exactly place the weight over it.
Like wrist weights, ankle weights have a Velcro fastener to hold them in place as they wrap around your ankles. The weights themselves might be a bit bigger than the wrist variety, and they often are slightly heavier because the legs can handle more weight than the wrists. After all, your legs support your body, so they're used to carrying more than one pound at a time.
In general, ankle weights will give your calf muscles a workout as you walk and provide a bit of resistance with each step that will help you burn more calories.
Small Hand Weights
Small hand weights, also known as lightweight dumbbells, are held in the hands over the course of your walk. Since they come in more weight options than wrist weights, they're good for those who want to progressively walk with heavier and heavier weights.
Although these may not be the best option if you have issues gripping weights or are plagued with carpal tunnel hand pain, hand weights can be a good way to work out your arm, shoulder, and back muscles as you walk. Plus, you can do things like arm curls as you go (more on that later).
Another option is to check out weighted backpacks. While you could just use a standard backpack and place several weights (or heavy books) in it, you're better off purchasing a special version that's designed for workouts. This type has adjustable weights, so you can change them up as needed, and it fits close to your back, preventing injury.
Most regular backpacks don't have that ergonomic fit, so they can be tougher to use when walking for fitness purposes. Like the weighted vest, a weighted backpack works out your core muscles, helping your abdominals and back muscles become stronger. The backpack also provides some resistance when you're walking forwards, helping you burn more calories on your walk.
How To Get Started Walking With Weights
Walking with weights is something that you can do right away, as long as you start off small. Although a one-pound weight doesn't sound like much, when you start moving with those weights strapped around your ankles or a five-pound vest on your back, you'll begin to feel it. The experts suggest:
Starting Off With a Lower Weight
Not only do you need to start walking with small weights, like one-pound weights for the hands, wrists, and ankles, and ten-pound weights for the vest and backpack, but you also need to start slow.
Don't walk an entire mile with your weights strapped to you or in your hands. Stick to smaller increments of time, like ten to fifteen minutes during your workouts, and then work your way up to longer periods of wearing them. In addition, as you get stronger, you can increase the weight of your, well, weights, at the same time.
Stretching First And Cooling Down Properly
It almost goes without saying, but you need to stretch properly before your walks and take the time to cool down once you're done. You should be doing this before and after each walk, but particularly those with weights. Otherwise, you run the risk of spraining an ankle, pulling a muscle, or straining a ligament.
Only Using Weights a Few Times Per Week
You might be tempted to use your weights every time you go for a walk, but don't. Overusing them can lead to injuries and other issues. Instead, only use them two to three times a week, just going to normal, unweighted walks the other days. You'll stay injury-free this way and get all of the cardiovascular benefits of each walk.
Alternate the Weighted Areas
It can be tempting to just strap all of your weights on at once and see what happens. Don't do this. You'll end up overworking yourself and run the risk of injury. Instead, alternate which parts of your body have the weights attached.
For example, use your ankle weights one day, your hand or wrist weights another, and your weighted vest on a different day. Don't forget to alternate in standard (non-weighted) walks as well in order to get in several well-rounded workouts.
Exercises To Do When Walking With Weights
Sure, you could strap on your weights and just go for a walk. You'll reap all of the benefits of doing so. However, if you really want to give your muscles a good workout and use those weights to the best of your ability, then try these handy exercises.
Strap on your ankle weights and do some knee lifts. The resistance provided by the weights will work out your glutes and hip muscles while giving your overall workout a boost.
Use your hand weights or wrist strap weights and do a few arm curls while walking. You won't even have to break your stride as you do a few sets of five.
A standard lunge is made more effective when wearing a weighted backpack or vest. Some ankle weights can also provide the resistance that you need to build up your leg and core muscles as well.
It's time to dance like no one's watching because who cares if other people see you twirling and leaping your way through the park. Put on your weighted vest (ankle, wrist, and hand weights can throw you off balance) and spend some time dancing through the park during your walk.
It’s Time To Introduce Weights Into Your Walks
Weights can give you the fitness results you’re looking for. You should include weights in your fitness walks because the benefits are worth it. You'll not only give your muscles a bit more of a workout, strengthening them, but you'll also burn more calories since the additional weights add some resistance, making every step a little tougher.
When combined with a solid, well-rounded diet regimen, your newly weighted fitness walks will usually help you lose weight. It all comes down to the usual two: diet and exercise, especially when that exercise consists of using weights when you walk.