Ankle weights are a commonly used training device marketed to the general population as a way to improve fitness during day-to-day activities.

Most ankle weights are designed as mini sandbags you attach around your ankles with a Velcro strap.

The typical weights range from 1–3 pounds (roughly 0.5–1.5 kg) and can be used during everyday activities or incorporated into a workout routine.

While ankle weights have not been studied as extensively as other common methods of fitness training, research suggests they may be beneficial for improving your walking dynamics and helping reduce body fat and cardiovascular disease risk (1, 2).

Furthermore, for older adults, wearing properly weighted ankle weights may improve knee joint repositioning and may be beneficial for improving balance in individuals recovering from stroke events (3, 4).

Overall, ankle weights offer some benefit to general fitness and can be safely used by healthy individuals.

That said, they’re far from a complete fitness solution and are best utilized as part of a program that also incorporates weight training and aerobic exercise.

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Ankle weights are not a new invention. Research on ankle weights dates to 1990 and earlier (5).

While there’s less research on ankle weights as a training method compared with other fitness training methods, recent research suggests ankle weights are beneficial for several different applications.

Clinical use of ankle weights

The primary use for ankle weights in a clinical setting is for improving:

For example, a 2016 study found that using a combined ankle weight of 0.5%, 1%, and 1.5% of a subject’s body mass lowered errors in knee joint repositioning in older adults when compared to no resistance (3).

According to the study, the 1% ankle weight group performed the best, though all weighted groups showed improvement.

A different study on stroke rehabilitation patients showed that adding 3–5% of individuals’ body weight in ankle weights on the stroke-affected side leg improved the patients’ ability to balance (4).

As such, ankle weights may be a promising rehabilitation solution for people who’ve experienced a stroke and a tool for gait improvement in older adults.

While these studies are promising, you should always consult your healthcare provider before attempting any intervention for medical issues.

Ankle weights for general fitness improvements

When it comes to general fitness for noninjured individuals, ankle weights may be beneficial as well.

For example, a 2016 Malaysian study found that wearing 0.5-kg (1.1-pound) ankle and wrist weights 3 times per week for 20 minutes lowered participants’ waist circumference, waist-to-hip ratio, and body fat percentage by the end of the 6-month study period (6).

While more research is required to replicate these results, this study suggests that ankle weights may be a useful tool for improving these health measures.

Finally, a 2017 study on walking mechanics in otherwise healthy adults found that ankle weights using 1–2% of a person’s body weight “can be effective for enhancing the walking factors of adults without symptoms” (7).

Overall, the research suggests that ankle weights may be beneficial for noninjured adults for both fitness and movement improvements, although further study is needed.


Scientific evidence suggests that ankle weights may be useful in both clinical and general fitness settings.

Always consult your healthcare provider before attempting any rehabilitation program.

With the research in mind, the following are a few suggestions for incorporating ankle weights into your fitness program:

  • Select a combined ankle weight between 1% and 2% of your body weight.
  • Wear the weights around your ankles at least 3 times per week for a minimum of 20 minutes per session.
  • Consider adding ankle weights when doing slower walks for enhanced movement quality.
  • Only wear ankle weights for limited periods to avoid overuse injuries and imbalances.
  • Don’t exceed 3% of your body weight in ankle weights.
  • Incrementally increase the weight to avoid overuse injuries.

Ankle weights should be worn for short periods a few days per week.

There isn’t enough scientific evidence to make further claims, but any fitness tool can lead to overuse injuries if you do too much (8).

The following four exercises target your hips and glutes and utilize ankle weights for resistance.

Single-leg glute bridge

To do this exercise:

  1. Lie on your back and bring your heels in toward your hips.
  2. Extend one leg straight in the air.
  3. With your nonextended leg, press against the floor evenly with your foot to raise your hips off the ground.
  4. Contract your glutes at the top of the position, then gently return your hips to the ground.
  5. Repeat on the other side.

Prone hamstring curl

To do this exercise:

  1. Lie on your stomach, with your legs extended behind you and your toes on the floor.
  2. Extend your hands out in front of you for stability.
  3. Slowly curl one leg up by bending it at the knee and raising your foot until your shin forms a 90-degree angle with the floor.
  4. Slowly return to the start position. Aim to keep your hips and pelvis on the ground for proper form.
  5. Repeat on the other side.

Side-lying hip abduction

To do this exercise:

  1. Lie on your side, with your bottom elbow and upper arm on the ground and your head supported in your hand.
  2. Bend your bottom leg to 90 degrees for stability.
  3. Keep your top leg straight and slowly raise it as high as is comfortable.
  4. Contract your glute at the top and slowly lower your leg back to the floor.
  5. Repeat on the other side.

Prone superman holds

To do this exercise:

  1. Lie on your stomach, with your legs straight and arms extended forward.
  2. Point your toes, engage your glutes, and raise your legs and arms slightly off the floor.
  3. Hold the position for around 1 second, then return to the floor.

The research on ankle weights suggests that you can improve general fitness and walking mechanics by incorporating them into your overall daily routine.

Nevertheless, ankle weights are far from a complete fitness solution.

You’re unlikely to be injured by using ankle weights sparingly. But unless you incorporate weight training and aerobic exercise in your routine, you’re not likely to see any dramatic change in your fitness through ankle weights alone.

Furthermore, if used only when walking, the ankle weights will add more resistance to your quads and hip flexors. This could potentially lead to muscular imbalances if done in excess.

If you tend to have pain in your ankles, knees, or hips, you may want to avoid using ankle weights — or at the very least seek guidance from a healthcare professional.

The extra stress of even small amounts of weight shouldn’t be taken lightly when it comes to your joints. However, this doesn’t mean ankle weights are useless or inherently dangerous.

Simply understand that they’re best utilized for targeted muscular strengthening, in moderate amounts. They’re best used in conjunction with traditional, well-studied fitness methods such as:

  • dumbbells
  • barbells
  • cardiovascular exercise

Rather than wearing weights when walking and performing daily tasks, you may be better served by implementing a few of the exercises above into your fitness routine.


To avoid overuse injuries, ankle weights should be used sparingly as part of a complete fitness program.

Ankle weights show promise as both a rehabilitation method and a tool for general fitness improvements.

Evidence suggests that ankle weights may improve your walking mechanics and fitness. They’re unlikely to cause injury when used sparingly.

If you want to add ankle weights to your routine, keep the weights light and wear them for only short periods of time.

While ankle weights do have scientific evidence as a training tool, they’re best used as a component of your overall workout program as opposed to a stand-alone solution for improving fitness.