It was long believed that using weights while you walk could deliver benefits.

However, new research shows that using hand or ankle weights while you walk or run can actually increase your risk of injury. That’s because the high repetition of swinging your weighted arms and legs places unnecessary stress on the joints and smaller muscles, and it can change your natural movements as well as impede proper exercise form.

Further, research shows that carrying weights burns only about five to 10 extra calories; not the 30 to 300 extra calories as claimed in the past.


To avoid overuse injury, weights should be put down periodically during exercise. However, setting the weights down is difficult when you’re outside running or brisk walking. Here are some safer options:


  1. Run or walk with a partner and take turns carrying the weights.

  2. Use weights for short periods while using an exercise bike or treadmill, or during step training. 

  3. Use weights during a group exercise class, where the instructor can monitor how long and in what way the weights are being used.

  4. When walking, instead of using weights, walk faster, do an occasional short sprint, swing your arms more or walk on steeper terrain.

  5. Belts or vests with pockets for inserting weights keep the resistance closer to your body, thus avoiding any risk of swinging weights from the ends of your arms or legs. 

  6. If you still insist on using weights during your outdoor activity, check with a fitness instructor to 
ensure you’re using good technique.

More Tips to Avoid Injury

  • Avoid using ankle weights.
  • Hold hand weights by gripping them lightly and do not swing your arms.
  • Keep arms bent at the elbows and pump the weights forward and back with each step.

Originally published in Wellness Matters, Canada Wide Media’s quarterly newsletter on health and wellness.