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Don't get weighed down

March 19, 2007

Does adding hand weights or ankle weights while doing my cardio burn more calories?



Many people try to do this type of double-duty, with the intent of burning extra calories and getting some toning benefits at the same time. But it may not work as well as they hope.

Most research indicates that doing cardio exercise with hand weights or ankle weights can boost the overall calorie burn, but the increase is relatively small. The added injury risk may outweigh the benefit.

During a cardio routine that has repetitive movements for an extended period, extra weight on the arms places additional stress on shoulder joints. Extra weight on the ankles increases impact forces on the hips, knees and ankles. Over time, increased stress on these joints can lead to an increase in impact injuries.

In short, the long-term joint problems are simply not worth the extra calories used.

Furthermore, because it's awkward to move at a normal pace while carrying or wearing moderately heavy weights, people usually slow their cardio workouts when they add external pounds. They thus decrease the overall calorie burn.

Various instructor-driven workouts, such as kickboxing, use hand weights or weighted gloves to increase the intensity of the exercise. In these cases, the weight is very light and often fits in the palm of the hand, making it much easier to control than a traditional wrist weight or dumbbell. These workouts are usually designed to minimize joint stress and impact stress.

But when doing cardio workouts on your own, leave the weights out. You'll be able to move at a pace that is challenging but comfortable, without increasing the risk to your joints. If you want to add a toning element to your workouts, simply do a few basic exercises at the end of each workout -- that way, you'll build strength without compromising your calorie burn.


Jay Blahnik, a Laguna Beach-based personal trainer and IDEA Health & Fitness Assn. spokesman, has appeared in more than 25 videos and is the author of "Full-Body Flexibility." He can be reached at or

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