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Walking With Weights: Everything You Need to Know

Written By: Latoya Torrance

Latoya Torrance is a writer, entrepreneur, running enthusiast, and mental health advocate. With nearly a decade of marketing experience under her belt, she’s developed a knack for distilling complex ideas into compelling stories with her own flair. She writes about mental health, parenting, fitness, women’s issues, and entrepreneurship.

Expert Reviewed By: Denise Hernandez, RD

Denise Hernandez is a Food Data Curator at MyFitnessPal. Denise received her Bachelor’s Degree in Biological and Physical Sciences from the University of Houston Downtown and completed her Master’s Degree in Nutrition from Texas Woman’s University. Her areas of focus include adult and childhood weight management, women’s nutrition, and chronic disease management.

4 Tips for Walking with Weight

Key Takeaways:

  • Walking is a low-cost and accessible form of exercise that has numerous health benefits, such as promoting mental health and a healthier heart.
  • Adding weights to your walking routine can help to burn more calories, as the body works harder and expends more energy.
  • Safety is important when walking with weights to avoid potential injuries, back pain and rises in blood pressure; always consult a doctor before adding weights to your routine.
  • Don’t add more than 1% or 2% of your body weight in weights; for beginners, one-pound weights are recommended.
  • Hand or ankle weights are the best to use when walking, but they must be used correctly to avoid muscle imbalances and injuries.
  • Keep workout times limited when starting out with weights; start with 10 to 15 minutes per day and gradually increase your time.
  • Proper form is crucial when walking with weights; maintain a good posture, swing from your shoulders, and keep your head and neck aligned.
  • Tracking your steps and calories burned with MyFitnessPal can help you reach your health goals and keep track of your progress.
In This Article

Walking is finally getting the respect it deserves.

Yes, walking. It’s a low-cost and accessible form of exercise. But more importantly, it helps you live longer, promotes mental health, and makes for a healthier heart.

If you’re an avid walker and ready to take it up a notch, there’s a simple way to unlock even more health benefits: walking with weights.

Let’s take a look at the benefits of weighted walking and a few tips for getting in a productive walking workout.

Does Walking With Weights Burn More Calories?

So, does carrying weights while walking really burn more calories than regular walking? The simple answer is yes.

Let’s break it down:

  • Calories are a measure of energy.
  • Energy expenditure, or caloric expenditure, is the energy your body uses to maintain essential body functions.
  • Your total energy expenditure is determined by your body weight and composition — or resting energy expenditure — and physical activity.

And adding extra weight while walking means your body is working harder and using more energy — giving you a good calorie burn.

Sounds pretty easy, right? Is it safe, too? Let’s take a look.

Key Considerations When Walking With Weights

To do it safely, it’s not as simple as slipping on hand or ankle weights and hitting the pavement.

Completing a walking with weights workout can be risky. We’re talking potential injuries, back pain, or even a rise in blood pressure.

Of course, we recommend consulting your doctor before adding weights to walking, especially if you have a pre-existing health condition.
But if you have the green light and you’re ready to take your walking game to the next level, here are a few precautions you should take.

Use the right type and amount of weight

Before we get into the nitty gritty of each type of weight, let’s talk about how much weight you should carry while walking. Whether you’re using hand weights or ankle weights, don’t add more than 1% or 2% of your body weight.

If you’re a newbie, start with one-pound weights. If you’re a more advanced walker and ready for heavier weights, go big and grab the three-pounders.

So, what’s the best type of weight to carry during walking?

Using hand or ankle weights is your best bet. But it’s not without its risks.

Walking with dumbbells or hand weights can create a muscle imbalance and cause injuries in your wrists, elbows, shoulders, and neck.

Walking with ankle weights poses a similar challenge, and it all comes down to muscle activation. In this case, weighted walking activates your quads more than your hamstrings, taking a toll on your knees, hips, and back over time.

For both methods, the trick is to keep the weight light and maintain controlled and steady movements.

Limit your workout time

Don’t be fooled: Walking with weights is a heart-pumping cardio workout. And it should be treated as such.

That means starting small. If you’re just starting out, don’t wear your ankle weights for an extended period. Start with 10 to 15 minutes each day and gradually increase your time. As with any exercise program, doing too much too soon can lead to sore muscles and overuse injuries.

Keep your form in check

It all starts with the right posture. Bad posture while carrying additional weight can make you tire more quickly and even lead to common walking injuries.

Before you take your first step, make sure you’re standing tall, relaxing your shoulders, and focusing your gaze on the horizon.

Once you’re on the move, make sure you have proper form by:

  • Swinging from your shoulders
  • Keeping your head and neck aligned
  • Tightening your abs
  • Striking heel-first

And like other forms of cardiovascular exercise, your nutrition plays a major role in how your body responds to a walking-with-weights workout.

Top 4 Nutrition Tips To Support Walking With Weight Routines

1. Make sure you have the appropriate pre-workout meal

You can’t walk 60+ minutes with your stomach on E, especially when you’re carrying extra weight. But carb-loading isn’t the answer, either.
The best meals to eat before longer cardio workouts, like a longer weighted walk, include a good balance of macronutrients: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. These meals should be eaten at least two to three hours before exercising.

But if you need an energy boost before your workout, find a snack with more simple carbohydrates (carbs that are easier to digest) than proteins or fats — and eat it about 30 to 60 minutes before your walk.

Try these nutrient-packed snack ideas to fuel your weighted walk:

  • Bagel with peanut butter
  • Banana or apple
  • Granola bar
  • Dried fruit

If your walk is less than an hour, stick to your normal eating patterns: it’s up to you whether you walk in a fed or fasted state.

2. Stay hydrated during your walking routine

If your weighted walk lasts less than an hour, carrying a water bottle is your best option. But water might not cut it for your more intense workouts, like a walk that lasts longer than an hour. Sports drinks are great for a walking workout in a hot or humid environment, as they help replenish what you lose during those workouts — like water, energy (glucose), sodium, and potassium — and even help you stay at it longer.

This is how often — and how much — you should hydrate for more intense and longer duration exercises, per The American Council on

Exercise:

  • 17 to 20 ounces two hours before exercising
  • 7 to 10 ounces every 10 to 20 minutes while exercising
  • 8 ounces no more than 30 minutes after exercising

For a shorter, low-intensity walk, normal hydration patterns are best. For women, the amount of total water is about 11.5 cups per day, and for men, about 15.5 cups.

3. Enjoy a recovery meal at the appropriate time

The work doesn’t stop once the walk is over. Now it’s time to refuel your body with healthy carbs and proteins to replenish your energy (glucose) and repair your muscle tissue.

Here are some post-workout snack and meal ideas for a low-impact exercise like weighted walking:

  • Avocado toast with smoked salmon
  • Bowl of high-fiber, low-sugar cereal
  • Oatmeal with yogurt and berries
  • Scrambled eggs with spinach

Just be sure to refuel within two hours of your workout to reap the full benefits.

4. Consider including a smoothie for a post–walking workout meal

Maybe a short, low-intensity walking workout isn’t cutting it. If you opt for a longer weighted walk, drinking a smoothie with protein for an alternative post–workout meal is an easy way to speed up recovery and repair tired muscles.

Just be sure to drink the smoothie right after your workout to quickly replenish your energy and refuel those tired muscles.

Gain Extra Benefits From Your Exercise Routines With MyFitnessPal

If you’re ready to elevate your walking routine, add weights!

And if you’re really serious about reaching your health goals — whether it’s losing weight or getting stronger — track your steps with MyFitnessPal. If you wear a wearable watch or activity monitor during your workout, calories burned will be automatically added to your daily food logging diary. Learn more about tracking exercise and calories burned.

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About the Authors

Meet the people behind the post

Written By: Latoya Torrance

Latoya Torrance is a writer, entrepreneur, running enthusiast, and mental health advocate. With nearly a decade of marketing experience under her belt, she’s developed a knack for distilling complex ideas into compelling stories with her own flair. She writes about mental health, parenting, fitness, women’s issues, and entrepreneurship.

Expert Reviewed By: Denise Hernandez, RD

Denise Hernandez is a Food Data Curator at MyFitnessPal. Denise received her Bachelor’s Degree in Biological and Physical Sciences from the University of Houston Downtown and completed her Master’s Degree in Nutrition from Texas Woman’s University. Her areas of focus include adult and childhood weight management, women’s nutrition, and chronic disease management.

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