How to Use Wearable Weights and Benefit From Their Use

Woman putting on ankle weights

Mariakray / Getty Images

Have you ever gotten home from a trip to the grocery store, and attempted to bring all of your groceries in the house in one trip? By the time you get inside you are breathing heavy and your heart rate is elevated. It feels like you have completed a workout, and you're left feeling pretty proud of yourself for being so fit.

You can recreate that "just-brought-in-the-groceries feeling" in your fitness routine by incorporating wearable weights into your program. Adding wearable weights, allows you to use your body weight, but with extra resistance.

Not only can you add them to your strength training routine, but you can put them on when going out for walks or runs to increase your cardiovascular health as well. Here is what you need to know about the benefits of wearable weights and how to use them effectively.

Benefits of Wearable Weights

One of the benefits of wearable weights is that they can aid in weight loss. Research shows that wearing a weighted vest reduces body weight and fat mass. This is most likely due to the fact that heavier loads increase energy expenditure to provide energy for the inevitable increase in physical workload.

Another great thing about them is their ease of use. All you need is your body. Depending on the type, wearable weights are compact and some are lighter in weight, so you can take them with you on the go. You don't need any additional space or complicated program when using wearable weights either. You can simply take a walk while wearing them, and it will add a challenge.

Wearing your weights is an option if you are someone who has an injury or degenerative joint disease, (such as arthritis) that makes it difficult to hold weights in your hands. Exercise is proven to be a useful tool for the treatment of osteoarthritis. Wearing weights instead of holding them would allow you to maintain a fitness routine.

There is no age limit for wearable weights, which adds to their appeal. Because many of them are only a few pounds, they are an option available to anyone from adolescents to the elderly. Anyone can benefit from the different types of wearable weights.

Types of Wearable Weights

There are tree main types of wearable weights. These include wrist weights, ankle weights, and weighted vests.

Wrist weights can be a replacement for dumbbells in come cases, and are worn strapped around your wrists. They are typically between 1 to 10 pounds.

Ankle weights are great adding more resistance to your legs. They are worn strapped around the ankles, and provide extra resistance to your leg motions. You can find them from 1 pound, all the way up to 20 pounds.

Weighted vests provide more of a full-body challenge. The weight choices for them vary greatly, as most contain pockets where you can add or subtract weight at your discretion.

How to Use Wearable Weights

You can use wearable weights as a complement to both your strength and cardiovascular routines. If you are a beginner you will want to start with lighter weights worn for less time.

As you become more advanced you can use heavier weights. It's important that as your body gets stronger, you continue to increase the weights to see results. Here are some ways you can use wearable weights.

Ankle Weights

Ankle weights can be used during a strength training workout to add resistance to your lower body exercises. As we age, it becomes more important to mitigate the risk of falls by increasing lower limb and trunk strength.

Wearing ankle weights is recommended to build that strength—especially in mature adults. But it's never too soon to start. You can also put them on your walk or run to create a greater challenge.

Not only are ankle weights useful for your lower body, but you can use them for a high-level core workout as well. Try these two exercises out for an added challenge to your next core workout.

Hip Raises

  1. Start flat on your back with weights strapped around each ankle.
  2. Lift your legs straight up above your body to where your ankles are in line with your hips.
  3. Drive your legs up to the sky by lifting your hips off of the ground.
  4. Return to the starting position.

Bicycles

  1. Start flat on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor with weights strapped around each ankle.
  2. Place your hands behind your head and engage the core to lift your head and shoulders off of the floor.
  3. Lift your knees toward the center of your body.
  4. Twist your right shoulder toward your left knee, while straightening out your left leg.
  5. Switch and twist your left shoulder toward your right knee, while straightening your right leg.
  6. Continue alternating.

Wrist Weights

Wrist weights are a great addition to your home fitness equipment, because you can use them just like dumbbells, but they are strapped to your wrists. They also can be worn during a walk or a run.

Research shows that walking with wrist weights can actually improve walking gait performance. And, when you have weights on your wrists you have a higher energy expenditure, which allows you to add intensity to your walk or run without having to increase your speed. Try these two exercises with wrist weights instead of dumbbells.

Lateral Raises

  1. Start with your feet hip width apart and your hands by your side with a weight on each wrist.
  2. Lift both of your arms up and out to your sides, until they are parallel to the ground.
  3. Return to the starting position.

Biceps Curls

  1. Start with your feet hip width apart and your hands by your side with a weight on each wrist, palms facing away from you.
  2. Bend your arms, bringing your wrists up to your elbows.
  3. Return to the starting position.

Weighted Vests

Wearing a weighted vest while working out will give you more of a full-body challenge. Just like wrist and ankle weights, they can be used while walking or running and will automatically add more difficulty.

Another way to utilize a weighted vest is to wear it while completing your usual workout. Whether you do HITT, strength training, or anything else, you can wear a weighted vest.

The load of the weight should be evenly distributed to prevent any injuries or functional disorders to the lower body. Studies show there is no change in the gait, or a predisposition to injury, when they are used correctly. Try wearing a weighted verst the next time you go for a run for an extra push.

Safety Tips

You always want to talk to a healthcare provider before beginning a new fitness program, and adding weights in to your current practice is no different, especially if you have any current, or past injuries.

You also want to start slow and low when adding wearable weights. Start by wearing them a few days, and then work your way up to more frequency, and using heavier weight. Make sure your weights are evenly distributed to avoid any imbalance your body to prevent injury as well.

A Word From Verywell

Wearable weights are a simple way to add an extra challenge to any bodyweight workout. They are beneficial for people of all ages, and are even low impact for those with joint diseases.

Wearable weights also can help promote fat loss due to the fact that they elicit a higher heart rate response, and increase energy expenditure. Not only do they work with strength training, but you can also wear them while taking a walk or run. If you are looking for an amped up workout try adding wearable weights to your program.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How can you benefit from using wearable weights?

    Due to the increased energy expenditure when wearing weights, you will burn more calories and reduce body fat. They also allow you to do a workout anywhere, because all you need is your body.

  • When should you not use wearable weights?

    You should not use wearable weights if you have any injuries or joint diseases where putting any extra weight on your ankles, wrist, or chest would do harm. Listen to a healthcare provider as well as what your body is telling you to determine how best to workout.

  • How much should wearable weights weigh?

    Picking a weight will be different for everyone. When choosing a wearable weight you want to take your level of fitness into consideration. If you are a beginner, start with a lighter weight, and when you get stronger, increase the weight. The benefit of weighted vests are the pockets, which allow you to add more weight as is needed.

6 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Ohlsson C, Gidestrand E, Bellman J, et al. Increased weight loading reduces body weight and body fat in obese subjects – A proof of concept randomized clinical trial. EClinicalMedicine. 2020;22:100338. doi:10.1016/j.eclinm.2020.100338

  2. Chen L, Yu Y. Exercise and osteoarthritis. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2020;1228:219-231. doi:10.1007/978-981-15-1792-1_15

  3. Akatsu H, Manabe T, Kawade Y, et al. Effect of ankle weights as a frailty prevention strategy in the community-dwelling elderly: A preliminary report. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022;19(12):7350. doi:10.3390/ijerph19127350

  4. Yang HS, James CR, Atkins LT, et al. Effects of arm weight on gait performance in healthy subjects. Hum Mov Sci. 2018;60:40-47. doi:10.1016/j.humov.2018.05.003

  5. Campaña CT, Costa PB. Effects of walking with hand-held weights on energy expenditure and excess postexercise oxygen consumption. J Exerc Rehabil. 2017;13(6):641-646. doi:10.12965/jer.1735100.550

  6. Gaffney CJ, Cunnington J, Rattley K, Wrench E, Dyche C, Bampouras TM. Weighted vests in CrossFit increase physiological stress during walking and running without changes in spatiotemporal gait parameters. Ergonomics. 2022;65(1):147-158. doi:10.1080/00140139.2021.1961876