Exercising with Ankle Weights

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Ankle weights burn more calories but harm bones and joints if overused. Don't overdose on extra weight.

Ankle weights add appealing intensity to any fitness routine, but unless they are used in a focused method of resistance training, the long-term side effects of using ankle weights are detrimental to one's overall health. Using ankle weights will increase the amount of calories burned in any given workout, but ankle weights are hard on the joints and make a poor substitute for weight-training.

The body receives more benefits when cardiovascular training and ankles weights keep their separate identities. It is perfectly safe and even saves time to combine cardio and weights into one workout. Performing a set amount of bicep curls and military presses with manageable dumbbell weights while walking is different, though, than attaching more mass to the legs and taking that extra torque along for the entire ride. Joints, not muscles, end up swinging that little load, and joints are very susceptible to overuse injuries. It a person has an hour to exercise, it would be more beneficial to do 20-30 minutes of cardio followed by 20-30 minutes of weights.

Ankle weights give users a false sense of strength and stamina. To properly build and maintain muscle strength and bone density, a person needs to be pushing and pulling at least one-third to one-half of their body weight once or twice per week. That's the mimimum, and those numbers keep changing as more research about osteoporosis and muscle hypertrophy is revealed. Dinky, little ankle weights might elevate the heart rate more, but over time they will break the body down, dismantling it instead of improving it.

If you are loving your ankle weights, consider obesity's negative impact on joints. In addition to heart disease, diabetes and a chunk of other challenges, being overweight is hard on bones and joints. Obese individuals report more pain in their knees, elbows, hips, and spines. Being only 5-10 pounds overweight adds to the overall stress on a person's body. Underneath all that fat is some major muscle, but those muscles are indeed buried and overtaxed. If the goal is to lose weight in order to become healthier, why add ankle weight and increase the risk of having unhealthy joints?

The only instance in which ankle weights would be appropriate would be using them when you want a very slow, meditative walking workout (e.g.. 20 minutes or less every other day) or when the lowest setting on a weight machine is too difficult. In fact, it would be highly beneficial to attach weights to the ankles of a person who has very little knee strength. In the case of weak knees, do a set number of repetitions that specifically exercise the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and inner thighs.

Water walking would be a better alternative for those who enjoy that sense of pushing or slugging through extra resistance. Public pools and community centers with water parks often invite walkers to join swimmers during open swim times. Some facilities have current channels, lovingly used by young children on floats and adults walking against the current for exercise.

While ankle weights put the stress into the ankle and knee joints, walking in water is a natural way to increase load and resistance to the entire limb and throughout the rest of the body. Unless you are using ankle weights for specific exercises or moving slowly and carefully with them, move on to heavier weight in a concentrated weight routine.


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