Weighted exercise equipment has been around for thousands of years dating back to the Persians who filled cow bladders with sand or water to create medicine balls used to train soldiers. Walkers use weighted clothing and ankle weights to increase cardiovascular exercise and burn more calories. Ankle weights have proven to be effective, but they can also cause injury and are not recommended for all people. It is important to consider the pros and cons before using ankle weights.
Improved Cardiovascular Workouts
Ankle weights wrap around the ankles. Because the weights resist gravity, you have to use more force to lift your leg. This makes the hamstrings, quadriceps and glutes work harder, which gives the big muscles of your legs a better workout compared to walking without ankle weights, according to the September 10, 2007 issue of the Los Angeles Times. Because the leg muscles have to work harder while you are wearing weights, the cardiovascular benefit is better.
Builds Bone Density & Muscle Strength
Training with weights increases bone density and reduces the risk of osteoporosis, according to the MayoClinic.com. Ankle weights provide light weight resistance and light weights are recommended by the National Institutes of Health for senior citizens. Seniors can use the ankle weights in place of larger and heavier machine weights to do resistance exercises. This improves muscle tone, increases bone density and increases walking speed and mobility for senior citizens.
Increased Calorie Burning
Adding extra weight to your body during a workout increases the load, which causes the muscles and heart to work harder. The more muscles and organs that are activated means more energy is needed to do the work of exercising. More energy expended means more calories are burned.
Possible Leg Strain & Injury
Ankle or leg weights increase the stress on the joints. They can strain the ankle joint and leg muscles increasing the risk of serious injury, cautions Dr. Edward R. Laskowski, physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist with MayoClinic.com. Ankle weights do not build leg muscles equally. They strengthen the quadriceps, but do not strengthen the hamstrings in the back of the leg, according to Dr. Gabe Mirkin, a sports medicine specialist.
Because ankle weights put more force on the joints, they are not recommended for people with existing knee or other joint problems. While they are fine for people in good shape and who do not have any physical problems, people with aching joints and who are frail or overweight should not use ankle weights.