Walking with hand weights or ski poles has become increasingly popular.  Walking with light hand weights helps activate more muscles in the upper body. Specifically, walking with 3 lb hand weights increases the intensity and energy expenditure about 15% above what is seen during walking without weights. This means the average person will likely burn an additional 15 calories per mile when walking with light weights. (i.e., 115 Calories per mile instead of 100 Calories per mile).  Although this does not seem like a huge difference, regularly using a light weight may result in significant long-term benefits.

Studies comparing the energy required to walk with ski poles requires approximately 22% more energy than walking at the same speed.

Energy Expenditure Chart


Walking with light hand weights

Walking with ski poles

~100   Calories per mile

~115   Cal/ mile

~122  Cal/ mile


One study from the University of Oregon concluded that pole walking had a positive effect on the participants’ mood and reported pole walkers showed significant improvements in depression, anger, vigor, fatigue, total mood disturbances – when compared to walker without using poles.

The use of poles or hand weights while walking also appears to result in higher exercise heart rates with little increase in effort.

One more advantage of using hand weights or poles, is it increases the challenge and the energy expended without actually walking any faster.