The Benefits (and Dangers) of Walking with Weights
Not sure about the benefits of walking with weights?
Are you eager to get in shape and lose some extra pounds but don't feel like a gym is the best option?
Are you intimidated by heavy weights, grunting body builders or pushy gym trainers?
Many people struggle to find a workout routine that is effective and can become a daily habit. That's why we often recommend walking as a great routine you can add to your busy day.
The problem is many folks often want to combine the weightlifting aspects of going to the gym with their daily walks. This can be a great idea, but it can also be a very dangerous--if you don't know what you're doing.
That's why I've put together all of the information I can find about the benefits and dangers of walking with weights to help you find a solution to your workout troubles.
Choosing the Proper Type of Weight
It is important to understand what I mean by walking with weights. You can use either free weights such as dumbbells and weighted balls that you hold in your hands or weights that strap to your wrists and ankles. There are advantages and disadvantages to both types, and it usually comes down to your level of comfort and preference.
Choosing the Proper Weight
The amount of weight is a critical part of this exercise. One advantage is that the weight can be tailored to just about anyone's fitness level and endurance, but adding too much weight is one of the biggest mistakes you can make when starting this exercise.
Even if you are already quite fit, it is best not to go above three pounds for each weight, and light is better when starting out. If you aren't confident in your fitness level, then start with one pound weights and get a feel for the exercise.
Lighter than you expected? Unlike weightlifting, which rewards heavy weight, the goal here is to increase calorie burn over time and provide your muscles with a little extra resistance. When walking with weights, you are focused on the long-term calorie burn. On a 30 to 45 minute walk, a few extra pounds of weight can make a considerable difference.
Correct Form to Avoid Injury
The other important reason to use low weight is to avoid injury. The most common injuries associated with this exercise are strains to the wrists and ankles and pain the back and shoulders, according to a Chron article. This is almost always due to the use of excessive weight or incorrect form. Excess weight puts too much strain on your joints and muscles, especially if you are just starting the exercise routine. The added weight may also change your walking form and posture, which can lead to injury over time.
Correct walking form is incredibly important when walking with weights. This brisk walking tutorial provides excellent and clear information for proper walking form. Although the person in this video is not using weights, the form described is important to keep in mind. It may even be a good idea to practice this correct form without any weight when first starting out.
Achieving a Full-Body Workout While Walking
Now that you understand how to properly walk with weights and avoid injury, lets talk about why this really helps you get in shape.
Walking is easy, and just about everyone can do it. While walking without weights is perfectly beneficial, the added weight elevates the exercise to a new level. A key change is in the upper body workout. Walking, like running and jogging, works primarily the lower body and a little bit of the core, leaving the arms, chest and shoulders with a lot less to do.
If walking is your primary form of exercise, then your upper body strength can suffer. Adding weights to your arms and ankles helps give your upper body a better workout and balances the nature of the exercise.
A great way to enhance the work your upper body does is to be particularly active with your arms and shoulders while walking. This tends to work best with free-hand weights. You can incorporate biceps, triceps and shoulder workouts all while walking. This master instructor provides a short tutorial video on how to get a little extra arm workout while walking.
Walking with weights can be done both indoors and outdoors, and it can be integrated into a slightly more intense full-body workout. This great video provides a tutorial for a full beginner workout so you can see how a simple pair of walking dumbbells can be used to maximum effect in your own home.
Walking is generally considered to be a light to moderate form of exercise. It is easy on your body, but it is also light when it comes to calorie burn. Increasing calorie burn is one of the biggest advantages to adding weights to a walking workout, according to a healthy living article. Even if you don't do anything special with the workout, the added weight will naturally cause you to burn more calories in the same amount of time.
Cardio goes hand-in-hand with calorie burn. By increasing the weight and intensity of the workout, you are increasing the overall work your heart has to do to keep your muscles adequately supplied with oxygen and nutrients. Walking with weights should increase your overall heart rate and may get you to sweat a little bit.
Cardio strength is very important for your overall health. A strong heart will last longer and be much less prone to heart disease. It can also help lower your blood pressure. Your overall endurance and physical ability is strongly dictated by your cardio strength, so increasing this makes you more active and fit even if you aren't greatly increasing your muscle mass.
The Importance of Endurance-Based Training
The advantage of the long-term duration of walking helps build your body's endurance. Unlike the short bursts of strength needed in heavy weight lifting, walking with weights forces your body to keep up the pace for the long haul.
Endurance training is good for your body and your muscles in a variety of ways. It increases overall muscle strength without the strain heavy weights or bursts of activity put on your body. Like in the rabbit and hare story, slow and steady wins the race, in this case a race to your fitness goals.
Walking with weights in an easy and effective exercise that is accessible to just about anyone. It is flexible and can be adapted to a variety of activities and its generally safer and easier on your body compared to weightlifting or more intensive activities. Now that you understand walking with weights, you can go out and use this great method to achieve your fitness goals once and for all.
If you have any other questions about this activity, please leave a comment below.
All set? Here's what you need to get started:
- Purchase weights of the appropriate type.
- Practice your walking form without weights a few times.
- Pick an enjoyable outdoor or indoor space that you can visit consistently.
- Add the lowest possible weight to start and build up slowly to no more than three pounds.
- Start walking!
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