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Weights can increase the intensity of your treadmill workout.
Walking or running on the treadmill provides an effective aerobic exercise, but if you want to increase the intensity of the workout, you can use light wrist or ankle weights. Both accessories help you build more muscle, and because they increase your body weight, they also help you burn more calories on the treadmill. Wrist and ankle weights aren't without risks, but provided you use them wisely, they can be an effective addition to your treadmill workout.
When you've decided to incorporate wrist or ankle weights into your treadmill workout, don't reach for the heaviest weights you can find. The American Council on Exercise recommends using 1- to 3-pound wrist weights to avoid placing strain on your muscles and joints. Some people hold light dumbbells during exercise as an alternative to wrist weights, but ACE warns against doing so. The tight grip needed to hold the weights can result in an unhealthy increase in your blood pressure.
ACE reports that using 1- to 3-pound wrist weights during an aerobic exercise such as walking is beneficial to your health. The weights will increase the rate of your heart by five to 10 beats per minute and also boost your oxygen consumption by up to 15 percent. Ankle weights force your lower-body muscles, including your hamstrings, quads and glutes, to work harder during the exercise, Dr. Anthony Luke, assistant professor of orthopedics and director of primary care sports medicine at UC San Francisco, points out in a 2007 "Los Angeles Times" article. ACE notes that using ankle weights provides fewer benefits than wrist weights; 1- to 3-pound ankle weights will only increase your heartbeat by up to five beats per minute and your oxygen consumption by up to 10 percent.
Adding wrist or ankle weights to your treadmill workout is not without risks. If you have issues with your joints, using weights during an aerobic workout can increase the pain and potentially worsen the condition, Luke says. Ankle weights carry an additional risk -- if you change your walking or running mechanics while using the devices, you risk developing an injury. Luke recommends not using them during every cardio session.
If you're intent on using wrist and ankle weights during your treadmill workout, the safest approach is to start with a light weight and immediately stop using the weights if you experience any pain. A simpler and less risky way to increase the intensity of your treadmill workout is to boost the treadmill's speed or level of incline. MayoClinic.com recommends that if you don't have a high level of endurance to sustain a faster, longer workout, you alternate between a comfortable pace and bursts of quicker walking or running. As another alternative to using weights, the ACE recommends vigorously swinging your arms as a method of increasing the engagement of your upper body.