Q. What is your opinion of "Heavyhands?" Are they of any value or just another marketing gimmick?



A. Heavyhands are the newest craze, popular with people trying to develop aerobic and muscular fitness. They are two small weights secured to a handle and held in each hand while walking, jogging or running.

The benefits for the runner or jogger are minimal. Any additional increase in heart rate caused by running with a weight in hand can be accomplished instead simply by increasing your pace.

As for increasing muscle tone and strength of the arms and shoulders, the weights are too light to stimulate any significant gains. The muscles will readily adapt to that limited resistance in a relatively short time, and you'd have to keep adding weight to progress further.

Holding weights is a poor way to increase muscle strength, endurance and tone. As I've stated before, there is no one form of exercise that effectively develops each of the elements making up your fitness profile. Don't look for an all-encompassing form of exercise, because there just isn't one.

There can be some disadvantages to holding a weight while jogging. The additional weight can increase jarring and pounding of the joints. And squeezing the weight handles can increase blood pressure. The next time you have your blood pressure taken, get a reading while you're relaxed. Now squeeze one hand and observe the change. Try squeezing both hands simultaneously and see how much more it increases.

So, I wouldn't recommend that a runner or jogger hold weights. Variety would be the only reason I'd even consider recommending them to a runner or jogger. But even then there are better ways to generate some variety in your running.

Are there benefits for anyone from using Heavyhands? Yes! For people who can't or don't want to jog.

If you're one of those, you can increase your heart rate by walking. The more fit you become, however, the faster you must walk to make further gains. A walk becomes a jog for most at about five miles per hour (that's a pace of 12 minutes per mile). It's very uncomfortable to walk consistently at that pace. Under those circumstances, Heavyhands could help increase the heart rate, allowing you to continue aerobic improvement without jogging. It might be a better idea, especially for the older walker, to get weights that secure to the wrist instead of the kind that need to be gripped. This would eliminate any problem with elevating blood pressure.

If you haven't already bought a pair of Heavyhands, I'd recommend you borrow a pair at first. You may find that you really like them. But if you've already bought a pair and don't use them, it's no big deal. You can always rewrap them and give them to your boss for Christmas.