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Walking with weights -- OK or not?

Posted by vicki l.

I often take my two-pound weights with me when I walk my dog on a 3-mile hike in the hills by my house. I use them to work on my arm muscles because I figure I might as well maximize my time. When I mentioned that to a co-worker who's active in charity runs, he said it wasn't a good idea to do both. I'm confused. Is it bad to pump a little iron while walking? Why or why not? I'd love to get some advice. Thanks.
Answers (21)
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Pump it!. I imagine your co-worker was concerned because of the fact that you're hiking in the hills for three miles in addition to weight training. Typically, weights are used as additives to light exercise - light jogging, walking, etc. Hiking in the hills (as I well know) is typically a steep incline that can get your heart rate up to its maximum potential. When you're adding weight training to that, you risk over exerting yourself. Maybe a way to meet in the middle is to use lighter weights. Working with two pounds for such a lengthy amount of time could end up with you building muscle and that may not be what you're targeting. I'd switch it up to lighter weights or use your weights exclusively for lower cardio times.
It's up to you!!. Walking with weights is not a bad thing, it does maximize a good exercise. It increases the amount of work your body is doing, but be careful. You need to be careful using weights, because if you use to much weight you can cause ligaments and/or joint pulls and/or tears.
Your Choice But Think It Through. Most fitness professionals are split on the recommendation of adding light weights (2-3 lbs) to a walking workout. Exercise science research shows that you only gain approximately 7% more caloric expenditure (i.e. 7 extra calories on a 100 calorie expended walk - about ONE bite of bread's worth) and the risk of using poor posture as you get tired from walking with hand weights may not be worth it. However, if using good posture, light weights, and walking short distances (2-3 miles), the weights may provide a nice 'toning' addition to the upper body muscles. The ultimate decision is yours, but remember if you choose to indulge, keep a perfect posture while walking with weights.
Thanks!. Hey, I really appreciate all these insightful and helpful answers. I'm not looking to burn off calories with the weights, just to add some toning to my upper arms. Bad posture? Er, well, I guess I'll need to be more conscious about that, as I do tend to get lazy.
not that ok. experts usually do not recommend that, b/c the risk of injury is very high compared to the calories burned. soooo, if you want to tone your arms, do some Strength Training wt those weights ;)
Hands Weights and Shoulder Injury. Orthopedic surgeons love people that walk with weights since it increases your risk of a shoulder injury. The added weight only burns about as many calories as an extra five minutes of walking adds. It can also tire your arms out which tends to slow your speed down. There was/is a series on PBS called "America Walking" hosted by Mark Fenton (former race walking champion, author) and he answers the question in the negative as well at
Depends what you are looking for... I used to walk with weights all the time. My arms got very toned! It was great. But, I then learned that the body doesn't walk in balance carrying heavy weights around. Plus, I refused to walk up hills with heavy weights, it was horrible. Somedays, just walking with my crazy purse is too much of a weight! I have heard that your walking form is so much better and you can cover more ground without the weights.
I thought it would be a great idea too. First time out with my weights my shoulder started hurting. 12 months of rehab later and shoulder surgery last month I am still rehabing a hurt shoulder. The orthopedic doctor calls it frozen shoulder. I call it expensive and disabling! Not a good idea, but keep up the walking! Apparently the swinging and the pulling strains the ligaments. (yes, I used very small weights!)
I've walked with light weights before and thankfully didn't injure myself. But I didn't swing my arms as I walked. My walking partner and I did a series of very deliberate and controlled motions, like bicep curls but we found it hindered our walking stride and soon gave it up. Sounds like we were lucky we weren't injured.
i guess its not that good of idea
Instead of weights, why not consider walking with walking sticks. They're good for support and increase calorie burn.

Wow, I am astonished at these answers! I am 60 years old and I walk every day 4.8 miles. I carry 5 lbs in each and and raise my arms to shoulder height on each swing. I swing the weights in unison with my steps and I do not believe that it interferes with my step or balance. I walk the first half with my weights (each circuit is 1.2 miles so I do two with the weights) and the second half without the weights. I do not have any shoulder injuries and my upper body is very toned. My doctor tells me that my physical age is equivalent to that of a 30 year old.

So my unscientific advice is build up to it and make sure that you are not straining yourself but absolutely use the weights when walking. 

My take on it is, I used to weigh 60 lbs more than I do now, and I was fine when I walked. Fat people walk all the time, so what is the point in demonizing the use of a form fitting weight designed to add more pounds to a limb? I guess the chubby should sit inside all day, god knows their posture is doomed. I think a lot of fears are from the major disecting people do of the facts. It might not burn a lot more calories but it tones and builds more muscles if done regularly and the muscles on your body will eat more calories at a constant pace than you could ever hope to burn off if you used every bit of free time you had to do cardio. If it's putting too much strain on your joints or ligaments, chances are you're cheating and letting your skeletal structure do the work and letting your arms or shins hang down like a rag doll. If you can't handle the exercise, don't do it or go down in weight until you can do it. As soon as I get the chance I'm hoping to procure a 50lbs adjustable weight vest to go with my walking. The bottom line is if you're not willing to do the same exercise at the same speed and posture with weights on as opposed to off, then you shouldn't do it because you're not serious about it. If you only go half the way because of a few extra pounds, don't bother.
I walk several miles a day on my treadmill and I walk at about 3 to 3.5 speed at 3 to 4 incline AND I carry two, 2 lb dumbbells in each hand. I don't swing my arms uncontrolled. I do tricep and bicep curls, I hold them straight out and pull back (to match my stride) making it look like what an eliptical machine does... when holding onto the handles. There are a lot of controlled exercises you can do and I know on a treadmill the risk of injury- at least in my opinion is low... I'm not having to worry about tripping over rocks or branches so I can focus on my pace and my controlled arm motions. I think that it's a great idea as long as your motions are controlled and you aren't at risk for tripping and losing balance. My arms have toned up a TON and I've also lost 10 lbs in a month. I only have 5 more to go to meet my goal weight... I am sure the weights add to the calories burned and the fact that my arms are really defined now and not pudgy anymore.

I’ve promoted walking for weight loss for decades, and some people seem to never quite believe me.  They think weight loss has to be achieved through suffering and activities that they normally wouldn't do unless someone paid them.

I'd like to endorse John's comment wholeheartedly. I'm also in my sixties and have been walking with weights for over 25 years, over varied terrain including hills, based on the "Heavyhands" system pioneered by Dr Leonard Schwartz (who used the system himself for more than 35 years). I regularly use weights in the 3-10 pound range, for durations of an hour or longer (sometimes much longer). The system makes use of a wide (indeed open-ended) variety of simultaneous arm and leg movements and tempos, some of them involving raising the weights vigorously to well above shoulder height. Far from merely "interfering" with normal walking rhythm, the system challenges one to explore a much larger universe of balance, rhythm, tempos, and range of movement that is a whole learning experience in itself. The idea is to develop the ability over time to be able to balance total work-load between upper and lower body, and hence achieve a greater total training effort with less strain to any specific body-part (as might happen, for example, with constant running over the same period) and less subjective sense of effort. My experience is that the calorie-burn can be VERY much higher than "unencumbered" walking. For example, my heart rate at a given walking speed - say, 90-100 without weights - can rise to 160 over extended periods with the addition of vigorous arm movements using 5-7 pound weights. Naturally, it would be foolish to attempt this sort of thing without adequate preparation, but if you work up to it steadily, the effects on both cardiovascular fitness and overall muscular strength-endurance can be pretty impressive. For example, my own resting heart-rate is 42, and my maximum is still over 180 in my sixties. My joint and tendon strength, health and mobility are excellent, and I find this sort of training first-rate as a preparation for hill-walking, running, skiing and other general fitness activities. By the way, there's an experienced community of "Heavyhanders" out there, and many report similar stories to mine over many decades, and are equally puzzled by the assertively negative statements of the "dangers" of walking with weights by those who seemingly lack the requisite experience. Here's a link to a Yahoo group devoted to the topic: Those of you familiar with Clarence Bass's books and website will also find supportive and informative discussions of Heavyhands there. David Nyman

I was reading a related article that could also help you.

check it here :

I have been walking with weights for approximately 4 months with no problems. The circuit I walked is a paved but 'hilly' terrain approx. 4.5-5.25 miles which I complete within 60-70 minutes. I started the first month with no weights, then I added a set of 3lb dumbells which really enhanced the walk. I made sure that the weight would be enough to add resistance but not too much that would hinder the walking rythm or cadence that I need. After 30 days with 3lbs I decided to graduate to 6lbs. Again, more resistance but my endurance and strength increased as well so I was able to maintain a natural rythm with the added weight. I am now into my 4th month and am considering another upgrade to 8 or 10lbs ( this will be my max ). Since I've started the routine I have lost over 30lbs and have enhanced the tone and definition of my shoulders, chest and arms without any ill side-effects whatsoever. I think the main thing is to incorporate a weight that will allow you to walk as if you were'nt carrying any weights at all. That's what has worked for me.
I've been a runner for 20 years...6 miles 5 days per week.  About a year ago I started to get minor pain in my feet, knees, and calf’s, so I started to walk.  I've been walking for a year now and I have to say it is better for my body and surprisingly better for weight loss!  I never lost much weight running...which I thought was strange since I burned 3 times as many calories.  My eating habits didn't change either.  Anyway, the #1 thing for weight loss is eating habits/portion control...#2 walking.   Must be a heart rate thing.  Lower heart rate seems to burn more fat.   I run hard, but fat never came off.  I always tell people to watch what they eat first if they want to lose weight.  You don’t have to exercise at all and you will lose conclusion for weight loss exercise is that walking is much better for weigh loss than running...this, to my surprise, was my personal results. I considered adding walking weights but not after reading this article.  Funny, but I stopped lifting free weights and weight machines a few years ago (minor injuries) and just do pushups and sit-ups and i haven't lost any tone.
Excellent post. I too was surprised to find all this nonsense demonizing the use of hand weights while walking. If you move your arms in concert with your leg movements, as someone above mentioned, there can't possibly be any detrimental effect to your stride. And if you limber up before commencing the workout and use proper form, there shouldn't be any problem to the joints either. I think the problem is that there are idiots who will always find a way to screw things up and injure themself. Then the popular opinion becomes to avoid that thing that may be very good for you because of the potential risk of some idiot hurting themself. It's the same with fitness machines in the gym that provide ridiculously conservative suggestions for exertion as prophylaxis for the rare person who has an unchecked heart condition.
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