If you've incorporated a daily walk into your exercise routine but aren't sweating enough or seeing the results you want, it may be time to step it up with weights. By adding a weighted backpack or weighted walking vest, you increase the amount of resistance your body must overcome as you walk, forcing your leg muscles to do more work, your lungs to suck in more oxygen and your heart to pump more blood to your muscles. The result is extra calories burned -- ideal if you're looking to burn fat. Just make sure you don't go overboard in the beginning, as too much weight too quickly can put stress on your knees and ankles.
Put on your weighted vest with 3 to 5 pounds of weight or load a strong backpack with 3 to 5 one-pound weights. Lay them out so that the weight is evenly distributed and not massed in the bottom of the pack, which can pull you off balance and strain your lower back. If you don't have any small weights, you can use sand-filled ankle weights. Make sure not to add more than 5 pounds at first, until you have conditioned your muscles enough to fully support your joints while working with the increased weight.
Put on your pack. Make sure the pack is centered on your back and the waist-strap is securely fastened. If the waist-strap is not tight enough, the added weight will strain your shoulders and upper back; tightening the strap redistributes the weight to your hips.
Walk at your normal pace for at least 30 minutes. If you walk at a slower pace, you will not see much benefit from the added weight. Maintain an upright posture as you walk, keeping your head high, your face looking forward and your chest out.
Walk up an incline to increase the intensity of the exercise. Walk uphill or set the incline function on your treadmill. This will further increase the number of calories you burn as you walk. A 130-pound person walking briskly on flat ground will burn 224 calories over an hour, while the same person walking at the same pace uphill will burn 354 calories.
Once the 3 to 5 pounds you started with in your backpack seems too easy and you're not getting your heart rate to your target workout range, add extra weight in increments, starting with 3 to 5 pounds and then working your way up. Adding more than that too quickly can strain your knees, ankles and lower back, so take your time.
- Weighted vests are generally better for walking than weighted backpacks because the weight is more evenly distributed over the surface of your body rather than hanging off your back.
- Consult with your doctor before starting any new exercise routine.
Todd Maternowski began writing in 1996 as one of the co-founders of "The Chicago Criterion." He joined the local online news revolutionaries at Pegasus News in 2006, where he continues to work to this day. He studied religion at the University of Chicago.