I've heard that running with weights is a bad idea. Most of what I've read online (for example, this) seems to suggest unequivocally that weights on your legs are a serious health risk, but there seems to be a little less consensus about weights held in your hands.

My assumption was that it would be good for toning my shoulders and arms. I had been running with 450 gm weights for a few years- holding them in my hand, not around my wrist, usually between 7 and 15 km (at about a 5 min/km pace). But after reading about it online I decided to stop temporarily, even though I hadn't experienced any negative side effects.

I'd appreciate links/evidence one way or the other, preferably not just anecdotal.

  • 1
    I've stopped running with hand weights, and I can't say I regret it.
    – Eyal
    Commented Sep 20, 2012 at 11:32
  • There's a similar (currently unanswered) question on one of the New York Times Wellness pages.
    – Eyal
    Commented Jun 1, 2013 at 10:45
  • Yes, I mean jogging (5 min per km). That is a good tip, I have wrist weights too, that I can use.
    – Roger
    Commented May 23, 2017 at 10:17
  • Not quite the same, but I used to rollerblade with small hand weights and they helped a lot with changing direction, ie agility, but only at slow and medium speed. At fast speed they did not help.
    – Criggie
    Commented Aug 12, 2020 at 6:11

5 Answers 5


This article has links to actual studies showing no significant benefit to doing cardio with hand or ankle weights:

...if you are walking at a 3.5 mph pace and burning 5 calories per minute--adding a hand or ankle weight may make it feel harder, but you aren't actually burning more calories. A 2002 study in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness found no added benefit from wearing both ankle weights and holding hand weights at the same time! They compared 32 women who wore 1.5-pound ankle weights and held 3-pound hand weights while doing 50 minutes of step aerobics three times a week, with women who stepped using no weights. All the women improved their body composition, decreasing body fat and increasing lean body mass slightly. But the weights didn’t enhance the effect even though the workout felt harder!

Well known exercise physiologist, Len Kravitz, PhD, at the University of New Mexico conducted a study published in 1997 in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. He compared the long term effects of women who did step aerobics while holding hand weights that started at around 2 pounds and worked up to 4 pounds over a 12 week period. The women did a 30-minute step workout three days a week. At the end of the training period the women in both groups improved their fitness levels and decreased their body fat percentage. But the women who stepped while lifting weights did not get better results, suggesting that it was the step workout--not the hand weights--that produced the improved fitness effects.

I'd steer clear of running with the hand weights since the wrists are delicate and prone to repetitive stress injury.

  • 1
    +1 for reference. I brought in an excerpt of the article, including the study links, so that we have them in case the link dies. Commented May 11, 2012 at 3:34
  • Interesting, I wouldn't use it to burn more calories, but to run slower (so lower impact forces on my legs) and still maintain the same heart rate
    – Ivo Flipse
    Commented May 14, 2012 at 19:43

I would say that while running with weights held in the hand probably doesn't share the same detrimental joint effects as running with ankle weights, it is a less than ideal way to build upper-body muscle. I'd do chin-ups, push-ups, pull-ups, and/or overhead barbell presses instead, either before or after or in the middle of the run, or in a separate workout.


By running do you mean jogging or sprinting? If you jog, you rarely need to use a full motion swing of the arms, and really you're not supposed to fully open your arms (extended elbow) at any time. Your elbow is most bent, opening a small number of degrees. This is part of why the effect is less detrimental, because you are not putting an abnormal force at the end of a lever that usually is not there. Theoretically speaking, wrist weight are better than hand weights because they are closer to the vertex of your elbow.

  • I run at between a 4-5 min/km pace (yes, that's a wide range). Sometimes I sprint the last 400 meters. But I think I've already reached the conclusion that I won't be using them anymore anyway :-)
    – Eyal
    Commented Jun 10, 2012 at 12:04

No, carrying hand weights is not a bad idea. It is a good idea, despite the naysayers. I'm on day 651 of my running streak. (1 mile or more every day, no stopping, no breaks, no excuses, no exceptions. www.runeveryday.com

I frequently run with two 15 pound dumbbells, sometimes with two 8 pound dumbbells. It's a lot. You might consider using less. Today I will run 3 miles with 30 pounds in hand weights.

It has had a profoundly beneficial effect on my cardiovascular health and endurance, and I am not just talking about endurance while running, if you catch my drift.

In my twenties and thirties, I ran faster, but could not run everyday. Running gave me knee troubles. But now, in my fifties, I have no trouble at all with it, even with the weight, perhaps because of the weight.

It tends to hunch me over as I run. It's not permanent. Some might object to that. For me, the previously mentioned benefits outweigh looking hunched while running.

Ankle weights on the other hand, have caused me trouble. I believe the additional cyclic reversed loading stretches the knee ligaments, increasing the shock loading on the cartilage during footfall, and reducing the lateral stability of the knee joint. I only ever use ankle weights for floor exercising. I am very intentional never to laterally load my knees, and load them only in their axis of rotation.

There is much misinformation about this topic, even by professional coaches.

That said, if your goal is to tone your arms and shoulders, there are probably more efficient ways.

Keep on trucking. Do what you can, and then try to add 0.01 more.


I just finished a trial run with dumbells in my hand, each 2 pounds. It gave me the idea and feeling that I could more compensate for shocks when the feet hit the ground. It is like exaggerating your arm movement to do the same compensation, which is a known way to minimise shocks on knees. If you do not do it to often, I also see it as an extra workout for arms and upper body while running. The times you do not use them, running feels a lot lighter. Like the pianist who practises under very uncomfortable circumstances to improve his performance on stage.

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