Women are by nature the best multitaskers. Think about it: You sweep the kitchen while talking on the phone, answer a work email while eating lunch and organize your day while watching TV. So it's obvious why ankle and wrist weights are appealing, since they allow you to multitask your regular workout with strength training and cardio all at once. But before you strap on those weights, know how to use them properly -- otherwise, ditch them for something safer.
Types of Exercise
Wrist and ankle weights are only appropriate to use during certain types of exercise. Obviously you don't really need the extra weight when strength training with free weights, but you should also avoid using wrist and ankle weights during high-intensity exercise, since they could disrupt your form. Instead, if you must use wrist and ankle weights, save them for lower-impact workouts, like walking.
Slow and Steady
One of the reasons that wrist and ankle weights are inappropriate for high-impact workouts is that they can throw off your balance or cause muscle strain from swinging or jerking your arms and legs while wearing them. Instead, wrist and ankle weights are much better for exercises where you move slowly. While you might not be the slow-moving type, a slow and smooth walk while wearing your wrist and ankle weights is your best bet. This reduces the chance for strain and injury -- think of a stroll around the mall, not a brisk walk at the track.
Sloppy form can get you in trouble when it comes to fitness, and wrist and ankle weights aren't an exception to this rule. Since your body's not used to the extra weight in your extremities, you might have the tendency to overcorrect or feel off-kilter when wearing your weights. That's why it's important to focus on good form while wearing them. Keep your back straight and your core pulled in and engaged to help support your back and avoid strain.
Wrist and ankle weights aren't exactly advanced pieces of workout equipment and they shouldn't be too heavy. Leave the serious weight to dumbbells and weight machines, and if you choose to wear wrist and ankle weights, select those that are light enough to move around easily but heavy enough to provide a small amount of resistance -- 2 to 3 pounds are usually enough.
If you're dying to add extra resistance, think about using a weighted vest instead. It distributes weight evenly across your shoulders instead of your extremities for less chance of jerking and straining. Or, if you feel like walking isn't cutting it for your fitness routine anymore, it might be time to try something new and more intense sans extra weight -- an aerobics class, jogging or learning to use resistance tubing might be better ways to amp up your workout while staying safe.
Kay Ireland specializes in health, fitness and lifestyle topics. She is a support worker in the neonatal intensive care and antepartum units of her local hospital and recently became a certified group fitness instructor.