Burning Extra Calories on a Treadmill With Hand Weights

Carry light hand weights to pump up your treadmill routine.
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Walking or jogging on a treadmill is certainly an excellent way to burn calories. Swing your arms at your sides while you’re walking -- rather than holding onto the machine -- to make your workout a bit more intense and zap some extra calories. If you pump your arms aggressively, the way race walkers do, you’ll burn a few more calories. To really take it to the next level, grab a pair of hand weights and pump away to perform your treadmill workout at max intensity.

    Step 1

    Use 1-pound hand weights, if you’re adding weights to your treadmill workout for the first time. Try to work up to at least 3-pound weights, but never carry weights that total more than 10 percent of your body weight.

    Step 2

    Swing the hand weights as far as you can, safely, while keeping the weights under control. The farther you swing the weights, the more calories you’ll burn.

    Step 3

    Move your right arm forward as you step forward with your left foot, just as you would if you were pumping your arms while running. Your hand should flow naturally from beside your right hip to the front of your middle chest, then back, while your elbow remains close to your side. Use the same pattern with your left arm and your right foot.


    • A University of Pittsburgh study concluded that swinging 1- to 3-pound hand weights while walking, or performing a similar exercise, burns between 3 percent and 155 percent more calories than comparable exercise performed without hand weights. Your results will depend on the size of the weights and how far you swing them in each stride.


    • Opinion regarding the value of swinging hand weights while walking on a treadmill is not unanimous. While the University of Pittsburgh study stated that the practice is likely "safe for most individuals," others -- such as California exercise physiologist Douglas Brooks -- say that the risks of sustaining elbow or shoulder injuries from carrying the weights "outweigh the benefits." Additionally, swinging the weights while you're walking may raise your heart rate or blood pressure excessively, so the practice may be dangerous if you have high blood pressure or another cardiac condition. Check with your doctor before adding hand weights to your treadmill routine. Use light weights to start, if your doctor approves.

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