Walking With Weights
by Vicki Pierson, ACE Certified Personal Trainer

Looking to add intensity to your walking workout and vary your routine? Walking with weights may be an alternative to consider, but be careful! If you have a bad back or joint problems avoid using weights when you walk. Walkers with high blood pressure, heart disease or circulatory problems, should first consult a doctor. However, assuming that youíre a healthy adult without any special medical conditions, carrying weights can be a great way to turn up the intensity in your walking workout.

Weights will improve your cardiovascular conditioning and help you strengthen your upper body. If you want to carry weights during your walks, consider these pointers:

1. The safest place to add weight for a walking workout is around your torso. There are weighted vests designed specifically for this purpose that allow you to distribute and add the proper amount of weight thatís right for you. Walking with a weighted vest will not alter your center of gravity and throw your body out of alignment.

2. Build gradually. Start with a very light weight that you can easily control while walking and keep the walks short. This will help your body get used to the added weight and avoid over-stressing your joints.

3. Under no circumstances should you walk with weights of any kind strapped to your ankles. The potential for knee injury is far to great.

4. If youíre going to walk with hand or wrist weights, swing your arms naturally, slightly bent, in an arc, close to your body to avoid excess strain on your back. The important thing to remember is not to overdo it. The risk of injury sharply increases if you add too much weight too soon, swing your arms in large arcs above shoulder level, or increase the rate of your arm swing significantly.

5. Add weight only after you establish a stride that feels comfortable to you. Donít add more than approximately one pound at a time with about two weeks between each weight increase.

6. A good rule of thumb to follow is to carry no more than 10% of your body weight, divided evenly between two hand weights or the front and back of a vest. If youíre just starting to carry weights, begin with one pound (or less) and work your way up.

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