Are Ankle Weights Bad for Your Knees?

by Stephanie Dube Dwilson, Demand Media
    Don't wear ankle weights while jogging or you might hurt your knees.

    Don't wear ankle weights while jogging or you might hurt your knees.

    When you're trying to get into shape, you want every possible advantage. That's why some people wear ankle weights when they run, walk or even go to the gym. But you don't want to be one of those women who can't take the stairs because your knees are in too much pain, or one of those people getting knee replacement surgery before middle age. Understand the risks of ankle weights and use them wisely before adding them to your routine.

    Cardio Issues

    Although it may be tempting to wear ankle weights when you're walking, running or doing other cardio exercises, the risks far outweigh any minimal benefits. Wearing ankle weights while doing cardio puts your knees at risk for a number of reasons. The added weight creates added stress on the knee joints and surrounding ligaments, making them more prone to injury. Wearing ankle weights can also change the mechanics of how you walk or run, meaning your body will have to compensate for the extra weight by running in a different way, with different stresses placed on your feet and legs as you step. This altered gait can put your knees at greater risk of injury.

    Strength Training

    It is safe, however, to incorporate ankle weights into your strength-training workout without putting your knees at risk. When you're doing leg lifts, for example, ankle weights can add extra resistance that doesn't place unnecessary stress on the knee joints. You can wear them while using weight machines too. Ankle weights are also good additions to pullups and bicycle crunches. Start out at the lowest ankle weight and work your way up.

    Other Cardio Options

    If you want to burn extra calories or make your exercise more intense while running or walking, you have options that are better than ankle weights. Wearing a weighted vest of five to 10 percent of your body weight, especially for exercises such as stair steppers or incline running, is a better alternative. Just picking up the pace of your workout, like running instead of walking, can add more benefit than ankle weights. Try alternating between walking and bursts of high-intensity sprints for a calorie-burning boost.

    Knee Strengthening

    Although ankle weights can injure your knees if worn while running or walking, they can be beneficial for reducing knee pain if used in conjunction with knee-strengthening exercises. For example, wearing ankle weights while doing leg lifts on your side can help. Start out on your left side, using your left arm to support your head, and slowly lift your right leg above your shoulder. You can also wear them for inner-thigh leg lifts to help reduce knee pain. Always consult a doctor before attempting any new exercises, especially if you suffer from knee pain.

    About the Author

    Stephanie Dube Dwilson is an attorney, business owner and professional writer. She has worked for organizations such as "Business Week," national magazines, production studios, law firms and public relations firms. She earned a Master of Science in science and technology journalism from Texas A&M and a JD from the University of Texas.

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