Part of my job as a trainer is answering all kinds of health and fitness related questions. One I get every once in a while is, "Should I use ankle weights when I walk?"
My short answer is "no". A well-rounded fitness routine should incorporate aerobic activities--walking, jogging, dancing, cycling--plus strength training, flexibility, balance, coordination and agility work. You can blend some of these goals together, agility drills while jogging, flexibility+ balance + strength work while in a yoga class. But I wouldn't suggest adding ankle weights to your walk because they could strain leg muscles and joints. Slow controlled movements with ankle weights are fine, but extended periods of walking or jogging, not so much.
Often when folks ask me about the ankle weights, they say they're looking for bigger returns from their walks. So here are some ideas you can add to your routine: First off, Walk faster! Or try adding in some jogging intervals from one lamp post to the next with your regular walking. Bring along a jump rope and jump for 15-60 seconds every few blocks. If you don't care what others think, then skipping is a really fun way to burn a heck of lot of calories, plus it tones your calves, thighs and bootie. Hoof it up hills. Nothing like a change in the incline to up your challenge. Local parks with staircases are another option. Change directions. We do so many things in the same plane, but when you walk backwards, or do some side slides or grapevines, you target other muscles that are often neglected. I do this with my seniors and they can't believe how much they feel their inner and outer thigh muscles work when we add in some side slides.
Another way to get more out of your walk is to add some resistance exercises so you tone more muscles. Along your walk route you could add in some push ups on a bike rack or picnic table, tricep dips on a bench or low retaining wall, carry along a exercise tube for some bicep curls or sit on the band and try some overhead presses. Playgrounds offer all kinds of exercise options, like pull ups on the monkey bars, abdominal crunches on the see saw, rows on the swingset. The outdoors provide an endless list of opportunities to challenge your mind, body and spirit. I could go on and on. But I'll leave you with these ideas to start. And you can always drop in on a class or meet with me for a session to learn just how to Take It Outside!