Ankle weights are just one type of equipment used by individuals to increase their workload when walking. Some also choose to use ankle weights throughout the day as a means of integrating exercise into every step they take. While there can be some gains from using ankle weights, the risks often override them.
Ankle weights are weights made specifically to fit around the ankle when running or walking. These can weigh anywhere from a few ounces to more than a pound. The purpose of these weights is to place extra work on the muscles in the leg by making each step taken heavier. Over time, this can greatly increase the amount of work done.
When proper form is kept while using ankle weights, the LA Times reports there can be several advantages. Extra exercise is provided to the hamstrings, quadriceps and glutes, which have to exert more energy. This can also lead to an increased heart rate over what you normally experience when walking, making for a cardiovascular benefit.
While extra weight and strain is placed on the muscles — which can recover and strengthen in response to ankle weights — extra strain is also placed on joints. This can lead to aching and painful joints and could cause more significant problems that inhibit your ability to walk.
According to DrMirkin, ankle weights cause legs to strengthen disproportionately in the upper leg as opposed to the lower leg. This disproportion creates an increased risk of injury. Additionally, using ankle weights can restrict or change the way you normally walk, and this altered form could open you up to more injuries. The LA Times also reports that ankle weights can cause pain to develop in the knees and hips, particularly in overweight individuals.
Instead of using ankle weights, consider increasing your walking speed to improve the intensity of your workout. You might also try walking up hills to increase your workload. Strength can be developed by lifting weights in a gym, particularly leg and lower body lifts intended to strengthen the same muscle groups that would be aided by ankle weights.