Will I burn more calories if I walk with ankle weights?

Walking is one of the most accessible and effective forms of exercise. It provides numerous health benefits, including improved cardiovascular health, stronger bones, weight management, and reduced stress levels. Many people look for ways to maximize the calorie-burning effects of walking to meet their fitness goals. One strategy is using ankle weights while walking. But does adding weight to your ankles really increase the calories you burn?

How many calories does walking burn?

The number of calories burned while walking depends on a variety of factors:

  • Your weight – Heavier people burn more calories than lighter people
  • Intensity – Walking uphill or at a brisk pace burns more calories than walking on flat ground at a leisurely pace
  • Duration – Longer walks burn more calories than shorter walks
  • Fitness level – Highly fit people tend to burn fewer calories than less fit people at the same intensity

On average, a 155 pound (70 kg) person burns approximately 167 calories per mile while walking at a moderate pace of 3 miles per hour (4.8 km/h). At a brisk pace of 4 miles per hour (6.4 km/h), they would burn around 210 calories per mile.

Do ankle weights increase calories burned while walking?

Yes, adding weight to your ankles has been shown to increase the calories you burn while walking. Wearing ankle weights increases the intensity and effort needed to walk, forcing your body to work harder.

Research has found that walking while wearing ankle weights burning approximately 5-15% more calories compared to regular walking without weights. The increase depends on a few factors:

  • Weight of the ankle weights – Heavier weights burn more calories
  • Walking speed – Weights have greater effect at faster speeds
  • Fitness level – Weights cause a greater boost for less fit walkers

In one study, participants burned 7% more calories while walking with 2 pound (0.9 kg) weights on each ankle compared to no weights. Another study found an 11% increase in calories burned while walking with 5 pound (2.3 kg) ankle weights.

How ankle weights increase calorie burn

Researchers have proposed a few explanations for why ankle weights boost calorie expenditure while walking:

  • Increased leg muscle activation – Adding weight to the ankles requires your leg muscles to work harder to lift the extra load with each step. This increased leg muscle activation increases the energy (calorie) cost.
  • Elevated heart rate – Wearing ankle weights causes a higher heart rate compared to unweighted walking at the same pace. Your heart has to pump harder to supply oxygenated blood to the working muscles. The elevated heart rate indicates greater energy expenditure.
  • Changes to gait – Ankle weights may alter biomechanics and gait patterns while walking, requiring greater effort from muscles throughout the body to maintain stability and balance.

Benefits of walking with ankle weights

Beyond the calorie-burning effect, walking with weights on your ankles can provide other benefits:

  • Improved leg strength and endurance – The constant extra load specifically targets leg muscles like the quads, hamstrings and calves. Over time this can enhance muscle strength and endurance.
  • Increased bone density – The impact of walking with ankle weights provides resistance that can stimulate increased bone density, reducing risk of osteoporosis.
  • Boosted metabolism – Challenging your legs with extra weight requires greater energy expenditure, which can give your metabolism a slight boost.
  • Enhanced workout – Adding ankle weights makes walking a more intense lower body workout, providing greater fitness benefits.

Downsides of walking with ankle weights

Despite the potential benefits, there are some drawbacks associated with walking with weights on your ankles:

  • Injury risk – Wearing ankle weights increases strain on the joints, tendons and muscles in the legs and feet. Overuse can lead to overuse injuries.
  • Discomfort – Having extra weight pulling at your ankles can cause rubbing and chafing, especially if the weights shift position while walking.
  • Abnormal gait changes – Altering normal walking biomechanics by wearing ankle weights could lead to developing problems like imbalance or poor posture over time.
  • Lower body focus – Most of the benefits of walking with weights are concentrated on the lower body. Your arms, chest and core won’t get much extra muscle activation.

Safety precautions for walking with ankle weights

If you want to use ankle weights during walks, keep these safety guidelines in mind:

  • Start with a light weight (1-2 lbs or 0.5-1 kg per ankle) and gradually increase over time as your legs adapt.
  • Ensure weights fit snugly without rubbing or pinching.
  • Pay attention to your posture and gait pattern when wearing the weights.
  • Take even, controlled steps – avoid excess bouncing or weighted lunges.
  • Remove weights if you experience pain, swelling or discomfort in your legs or ankles.
  • Avoid wearing ankle weights for high-intensity cardio like running – stick to walking.
  • Remove weights after 45-60 minutes to give your legs a break.

Maximizing calorie burn while walking

If your main goal is to maximize calories burned during walking, here are some tips in addition to ankle weights:

  • Walk at a brisk pace – Aim for 3-4 miles per hour
  • Incorporate hills or intervals to increase intensity
  • Swing your arms vigorously while you walk
  • Wear a weighted vest to engage your upper body too
  • Increase duration – Try building up to walks of 60-90 minutes
  • Add short bursts of jogging every 5-10 minutes

Sample walking with ankle weights workout

Here is a sample beginner 30-minute walking with ankle weights workout:

  • 5 minute warm up at easy pace without weights
  • 20 minutes walking at brisk pace with 1-2 lb ankle weights
  • 2 sets of 5-10 weighted walking lunges per leg
  • 5 minute cool down at easy pace without weights

As your fitness improves, you can increase the ankle weight amount, walk faster or longer, and add intervals. Taking 1-2 days per week to walk without ankle weights allows your legs to recover.

Should you walk with ankle weights every day?

It’s generally not recommended to walk with ankle weights every single day. Here are some guidelines on frequency:

  • Beginners: 1-2 days per week
  • Intermediate walkers: 2-3 days per week
  • Advanced walkers: 3-4 days per week

Walking with ankle weights places a lot of repetitive stress on your leg joints and muscles. Taking recovery days without the added weight allows your body the chance to adapt and get stronger. Alternate weighted walking days with non-weighted walks or lower body strength training.

Are ankle weights safe?

Walking with ankle weights can be safe when done carefully, but there are some risks to keep in mind. Potential dangers include:

  • Achilles tendon strain or inflammation
  • Joint pain in ankles, knees or hips
  • Muscle cramps or tears in calves or quads
  • Ligament or tendon damage
  • Shin splints
  • Poor circulation or nerve compression

Always start with conservative ankle weight amounts (1% or less of body weight per ankle). Proper fit and placement just above ankles is vital to avoid discomfort and injury. Listen to warning signs from your body and avoid overdoing it.

Should you buy adjustable ankle weights?

Adjustable ankle weights can be a smart choice if you want flexibility in the amount of weight you use. Models with velcro straps allow you to easily remove or add weight packs as needed. Key advantages include:

  • Gradual progression – Start light and increase weight as you get stronger
  • Customizable intensity – Adjust for different walking workouts or intervals
  • Less wasted weight – Change amounts instead of buying multiple pairs
  • Convenience – Simple to put on and take off

Look for adjustable weights made of durable neoprene or canvas materials with secure velcro. It’s helpful to have weight packs of at least 1/2 pound increments. Always inspect for wear and replace packs as needed.

Best ankle weights

Here are top recommendations if you want to buy ankle weights for walking:

Best adjustable ankle weights

  • Nordic Lifting Ankle Weights – Offer 2-20 lbs range in 2.5 lb increments
  • CAP Barbell Adjustable Ankle Weights – Range from 2.5-10 lbs with wide velcro straps
  • Sportneer Adjustable Ankle Weights – Choose 1-12 lbs with zippered pockets to add/remove metal bars

Best affordable ankle weights

  • ProSource Ankle Weights – Constructed with soft neoprene and come in pairs up to 10 lbs
  • Henkelion Ankle Weights – Offer either 2 or 5 lb options with iron pellet filling
  • Sveltus Ankle Weights – Contoured shape and moisture wicking lining for comfort

Best ankle weights for high intensity workouts

  • TRX Training Ankle Weights – Very durable and secure, available from 3-9 lbs
  • TKO Ankle Weights – Excellent heavy-duty quality for high-impact exercise
  • JFIT Soft Ankle Weights – Provide up to 20 lbs of weight with thick padding

Consider your fitness level, walking pace, workout objectives and budget. Adjustable weights allow easiest progression from beginner to advanced. For vigorous walking, opt for high-quality durable ankle weights.


Research indicates that walking with ankle weights can increase the number of calories burned, especially at faster speeds. The added resistance targets leg muscles harder and elevates your heart rate. For the average person, wearing 1-5 lb ankle weights may increase calorie expenditure by 5-15% compared to regular walking without weights.

However, start conservatively and gradually increase ankle weight amount to prevent injury risk. Allow for recovery days without extra weight on your ankles. While not necessary for everyone who walks for exercise, ankle weights can provide an added calorie-burning and muscle-toning benefit when used properly.

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