Alternatives For Walking With Hand Weights

Wednesday, September 27, 2006 - 9:51am

By Stacy Popke

Health care professionals and walking enthusiasts rarely recommend walking with hand weights. Although a few might propose this workout once or twice a week, it is still highly recommended that only very light weights are used and that a slower than usual walking pace is adapted.

What makes hand weights so risky? Well, for starters hand weights throw off your body’s alignment, which can cause serious damage to your ligaments, tendons, and muscles. They’ve also been associated with a rise in blood pressure.

3 safe alternatives of hand weights for walking

  • PowerBelt.  This belt has two cords attached to it with handles. As you walk, you grip the handles and swing your arms naturally. The resistance from the cords increases your heart rate, while simultaneously toning your upper body. Resistance can be also increased with attachments called PowerPaks. A bonus to using the PowerBelt is that the cords retract back into the belt, allowing you to effortlessly adjust the intensity of your workout.
  • Weighted vest.  A weighted vest can intensify your walking routine. It leaves your hands free and doesn’t change your center of gravity. The vest has several pockets, each containing a weight. You can add or subtract weights to adjust your workout’s intensity. The newer materials in today’s weighted vests ensures that they are both flexible and comfortable.
  • Walking poles.  Walking poles (i.e. walking sticks or trekking poles) increase the intensity of your walking workout, while helping to tone your upper body. Because they provide both balance and stability, they are especially beneficial for people suffering from knee, lower back, or hip pain. Arthritic joints can also be helped with the use of walking poles. Using this equipment will reduce the jarring impact to your joints. Another benefit for some people is that they can fend off attackers and stray dogs.

Other ways to intensify your walking routine

You don’t have to buy special equipment to increase the impact of your walking workout. One way to achieve your goals is to incorporate hills and stairs into your circuit. You can also increase your walking speed, and even add a bit of jogging or sprinting. Training for a walking race, whether it be a 5K (3.1 miles) or a marathon (26.2 miles) can be used as a motivating tool. Your workouts will naturally intensify when there is an event to train for. (Yep, we humans are a competitive bunch.) Have fun and walk safe!

A former weight training instructor and Montessori school teacher, Stacy Popke works as a freelance writer specializing in fitness-related articles.