Benefits Of Walking With Weights + 5 Safety Tips To Get Started

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Going for a walk is one of the simplest, yet still quite effective, ways to exercise.

Walking Is associated with many positive physical and mental health benefits, including improved cardiovascular health and functioning, reduced blood pressure, increased strength of the muscles in the lower body, decreased anxiety, elevated mood, and a decreased risk of lifestyle diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.

Walking is also a great way to burn calories, increasing your daily energy expenditure to help support healthy body weight and composition.

There are also ways to increase the intensity of your walking workouts to burn more calories and augment some of the fitness benefits gleaned through them. For example, some people tackle incline walking or Nordic walking, while other people decide to walk with weights.

There are several benefits of walking with weights, whether wearing a weighted vest or walking with dumbbells in your hands.

In this article, we will discuss the benefits of walking with weights and how to walk with weights to boost your fitness.

We will cover: 

  • What Does Walking With Weights Entail?
  • Benefits of Walking With Weights
  • Can I Walk With Weights?
  • How to Safely Walk With Weights

Let’s get started!

People walking with weights.

What Does Walking With Weights Entail?

If you are interested in walking with weights, there are several different approaches you can take.

Walking with weights can involve walking in a weighted vest, walking with wrist weights or ankle weights, or walking with dumbbells in your hands. 

Some people even combine several different weighted accessories at once. For example, you might walk with a weighted vest and hold light dumbbells that you swing as you walk.

Benefits of Walking With Weights

The primary purpose of walking with weights is to increase the intensity of the exercise, elevate your heart rate, boost the metabolic cost so that you burn more calories, and increase the workload on your muscles to build strength.

This makes walking with weights a more efficient workout per minute while still being a lower-impact activity rather than a vigorous type of exercise like running.

Additionally, depending on where you add the weight to your body, walking with weights can help strengthen and tone the upper body more than regular walking, particularly if you use wrist weights or walk with dumbbells in your hands.

Walking in a weighted vest also increases the impact force when you land, so your bones respond by laying down a denser matrix of minerals. Therefore, walking in a weighted vest can also increase bone density.

A person walking with dumbbells.

Can I Walk With Weights?

Walking is a low-impact aerobic exercise that is safe and appropriate for most people, as long as you do not have an acute or chronic injury that prevents weight-bearing exercise.

Walking with weights can be appropriate for you as long as you feel fit and strong enough to increase the intensity of your workout. The particular type of weight you choose to walk with will depend on your goals. Here are the four primary options for walking with weights and the pros and cons of each:

#1: Weighted Vest

Walking in a weighted vest is one of the best ways to safely intensify your walking workout. 

Because the weighted vest surrounds your chest and core, the added weight is centralized around your center of mass, reducing any torque or undue pull on your limbs from a displaced weight.

Walking in a weighted vest will not increase muscle activation in the arms, but it will boost the intensity of the exercise overall because your effective body weight is higher. 

Additionally, because the weight is located above the hips and pelvis, the muscles in your legs will have to work harder as if your body weight were that much higher.

Of all the choices of ways to walk with weights, wearing a weighted vest is typically the safest and most effective. Plus, you can buy an adjustable weighted vest that goes up to 20 pounds or more, so you can often add a significant amount of weight to your body.

Wrist weights.

#2: Wrist Weights

Wrist weights are usually small, flexible weights that secure around your wrist.

They tend to be fairly light, but as long as you pump your arms vigorously as you walk, walking with wrist weights can activate the muscles in your chest, upper back, and arms for more of a total-body workout.

#3: Ankle Weights

Running with ankle weights used to be extremely popular, but there is evidence to suggest that it may increase the risk of injury because the additional weight is located at the bottom of the kinetic chain.

According to Harvard, brisk walking with ankle weights is not recommended.

Because the lever arm from your hip is so long and the weight is located far from your joints, walking in ankle weights can potentially cause hip pain, knee pain, or even ankle pain.

A person showing their ankle weight.

#4: Dumbbells 

Walking with dumbbells in your hand is another way to better activate the muscles in your upper body.

Vigorously pumping your arms and bringing the dumbbells back and forth along the sides of your body will strengthen the muscles in the upper back, chest, and arms.

Just be sure that you are not taking extremely long walks or using dumbbells that are too heavy, as this can put excessive stress on the neck and shoulders.

How to Safely Walk With Weights

It’s important that you don’t suddenly jump into walking with heavy weights or doing long walks with weights, even if they are light.

You need to build up gradually and give your muscles, bones, and joints time to adapt.

Here are some safety tips for walking with weights:

People walking with weights.

#1: Start with every other day

If you walk for exercise most days of the week, begin your routine of walking with weights by just including the additional weights every other day.

This will give your body time to adapt and recover between workouts and will give you time to assess and make sure that no physiological structures are bothering you after your walks. 

For example, if you are walking with ankle weights, you might notice knee pain or quadricep pain that doesn’t develop for a few days. Separating your workouts with weights by a day or two will help you better gauge how your body is responding.

#2: Begin with light weights

If you are using a weighted vest or another form of adjustable weights, begin with lighter weights and then start walking with heavier weights as your body adjusts and gets stronger.

People walking with weights.

#3: Start small

Start by walking with weights for just 15 to 20 minutes per day until that feels easy and you are not experiencing any post-workout muscle soreness or joint pain.

Then, progress to 20 to 30 minutes, 30 to 40 minutes, and so on, until you are doing your entire walk with weights.

#4: Use good form

The risk of injury increases when walking with weights, particularly if you are using poor form. 

Make sure that you have good posture, with an upright torso, neutral spine, shoulders back and down, gaze forward, and stride even and light. 

If you are using wrist weights or walking with dumbbells, pump your arms, swinging them back and forth along the sides of your body rather than front and back, crossing over the midline of your trunk.

If you are walking with dumbbells, keep your grip loose and relaxed so as not to build up excessive tension in your shoulders and neck.

A person holding dumbbells.

#5: Buy the right gear

If you intend to be walking with weights frequently, getting the best weights for walking is certainly a valuable investment.

Our pick for the best weighted vest for walking is the OMORPHO Smart Weighted Vest. This weighted vest is far more comfortable than traditional weighted vests because it conforms to the shape of your body and moves seamlessly with you. 

The OMORPHO Smart Weighted Vest is also digitally connected, helping you get the most out of your workouts and making it much more engaging to use and track your walks.

The best wrist weights for walking and general fitness are the Bala Bangles. They are stylish, and comfortable and come in several attractive colors. You can buy Bala Bangles as 1-pound or 2-pound wrist weights.

Walking with weights can be a great way to increase the intensity of your walking workouts to accelerate your fitness progress, burn more calories, and strengthen your muscles.

However, it’s important to ease into walking with weights gradually and to consider the best type of weight for your body, fitness, and goals.

If you are just starting your walking workout journey, check out our walking guides for guidance and tips!

Two people walking with weights.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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