Weighted Vest Walking Benefits – Are There Any?

The benefits of walking with a weight vest will depend on the individual’s fitness level. Walking with a weighted vest has been shown to increase muscle mass, calories burned, increase bone density and decrease the risk of falling in the elderly. 

Weight vest walking benefits

The benefits of walking with a weighted vest are similar to those of regular walking and exercise, including improved mental health, metabolism, muscle mass, and decreased risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases.

A cohort study of 3101 adult males and females found that taking 8000 steps per day 1-2 or 3-7 days out of the week had a lower risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality after ten years. (1

The benefits of walking are well-known for improving health, but research shows that wearing a weighted vest during walks can provide additional benefits such as increased calorie burn, muscle building, improved bone density, and reduced risk of falls in older adults.

Let’s examine the benefits of walking with a weighted vest by reviewing research.

Does walking with a weighted vest burn more calories? 

By walking, you are already increasing the number of calories you burn compared to resting. The added resistance and weight from the vest will cause your heart rate to increase and recruit more muscle tissue to propel you forward. All of these factors will lead to increased calories burned. (2)

A study of 13 women found that wearing a weighted vest at 2.5 mph resulted in a 12% increase in kilocalorie expenditure. (2)

In a different study, researchers stated that “Using a weighted vest can increase the metabolic costs, relative exercise intensity, and loading of the skeletal system during walking.” (3)

A weighted vest may increase calorie burn during walking, but the extent of its impact compared to intensity and speed remains a subject of debate.

Does walking with a weighted vest build muscle

To build muscle, you need resistance training and enough calories and protein for recovery. Walking with a weighted vest adds extra resistance, helping you build muscle mass.

One study examined the effects of an at-home exercise and a weighted vest walking regimen on 19 participants with a mean age of 67. (4)

The results showed that the group who did the at-home exercise and weighted vest walking regimen had an increase in muscle mass. (4)

There are limitations to the total amount of muscle you will build by simply walking with a weighted vest. As you can imagine, it would be hard to stimulate the muscle in your upper body while only wearing a weighted vest and walking. 

Increased bone density 

Resistance training is known to maintain and improve bone density while walking alone has minimal impact. Walking with a weighted vest may help due to the added weight.  (5)

There are not many studies looking at only walking with a weighted vest and the impacts on bone health. However, this study split 36 seniors with an average age of 69 into two groups.

The first group participated in a 1-hour exercise program per week with a weighted vest. The second group did the same however no weighted vest. (6)

The research showed, “Bone density increased by 1% in the vest group and decreased by 0.6% in the controls.” (6)

While we do know that resistance training will support bone health, the question remains, will a weighted vest cause enough force to your bones while you walk to support bone health? More research is needed. 

Reduced risk of falling

As we age, our muscle mass naturally decreases, this process is known as age-related sarcopenia. This decrease in muscle causes an increased risk of falling which can lead to several more health issues. Older adults who walk and work out with a weighted vest have a reduced risk of falling.

One study split 18 women with an average age of 69 into two groups. The first group participated in a 32-week exercise program with a weighted vest. They did three one-hour workouts per week. The second group did no exercise. (6)

The results showed that the exercise group had a significant improvement in Balance. While these results are promising, we still need more research on if specifically walking with a weighted vest will reduce the risk of falling. (6)

Increased strength

The act of walking does not take any joint through the full range of motion, so walking with a weighted vest will have a limited effect on strength as it does not put enough load on the muscle to cause a significant strength increase. However, wearing a weighted vest while working out may help improve strength. 

A study that compared weighted vest push up to the conventional bench press found no difference in muscle activation between the two workouts.

“The main findings of this study demonstrate no differences in kinematics and muscle activation between the two exercises and that the different loads had the same effect upon both push-up and bench press in experienced resistance-trained men.” (7)

Improved speed 

Wearing a weighted vest while walking can help you increase your speed. This is due to the extra resistance that the vest provides.

In a systematic review of wearing a weighted vest (5-40% of body mass) while training sprints and running performance.

The research showed improvements in running velocity and times. (8)

Weighted vest walking benefits, while they’re not as well-researched as some other methods, show some potential benefits to using them. 

Does walking with a weighted vest build muscle

Research is very limited in supporting walking alone while wearing a weighted vest and building muscle.

However, several studies support strength training with a weighted vest and the ability to build muscle.

For example, one study found that men who performed resistance training with a weighted vest were able to increase their muscle mass and strength, equal to, men who did conventional strength training.

Therefore, the combination of weighted vest walking and strength training could effectively build muscle.

Weighted vest for strength training

A weight vest can also be a great tool for strength training.

When wearing a weight vest, you place more resistance on your body than you would with body weight only. This increased resistance helps to build muscle and strength over time.

Additionally, weighted vest walking can help to improve your cardiovascular health by increasing heart rate and breathing. 

Weighted vests can be easily added to a variety of strength-training exercises. For example, you can use a weight vest to add resistance to push-ups, sit-ups, and squats.

Additionally, you can use a weight vest to make running and walking workouts more challenging.

If you’re looking for a way to increase the intensity of your strength-training workouts, then consider adding a weight vest to your routine. 

Weighted vest for losing weight

The added weight of a weighted vest helps to increase the number of calories burned during exercise.

This is because the added weight forces your body to work harder, increasing your heart rate and breathing.

However, research shows that the increase in total calories burned seems to depend on the vest’s weight and the speed at which someone walks.

In a study of 13 untrained adult females, each person was assigned to a with no vest, 10% of body weight, and 15% of body weight weighted vests.

Each session was on a treadmill at a 2.5 mph pace, and the incline was increased by 0%, 5%, 10%, and 15%.

Results indicated that at 0% incline, only the 15% body weighted vest increased metabolic demand (Calories burden) 

As the incline increased, all three groups began to see an increase in metabolic demand with not much difference between the 10% and 15% body weight vested group. (1)

Weighted vest walking for fat loss

There are a few things to know about weighted vest walking for fat loss. It’s an excellent way to burn fat and is one of the best exercises for weight loss, especially because it can be done consistently.

That’s why weighted vest walking is one of the best exercises for fat loss – you can do it daily.

Second, when you walk with a weighted vest, you are working against gravity. The added weight of the vest makes you work harder, which increases your heart rate and may burn more calories.

And lastly, weighted vest walking provides you with extra resistance that may also help to build muscles. The more muscle you carry, the more energy you use at rest.

Combining all these benefits makes it easy to see why weighted vest walking is a great exercise for fat loss.

Weighted vest walking for beginners

If you’re new to walking with a weight vest, start with a lightweight. This will help you get used to the added weight. 

As you get stronger, you can gradually increase the amount of weight you’re using.

When starting out, it’s also important to focus on proper form. Remember to keep your shoulders back and your core engaged. This will help you maintain good posture and prevent any injuries.

Finally, be sure to warm up before starting your weighted vest walking routine. This will help you avoid any strains or pulled muscles.

As with any new exercise program, consult your doctor before starting weighted vest walking. This is especially important if you have any medical conditions or are pregnant. Your doctor can help ensure that weighted vest walking is safe for you and give you some tips on how to get the most out of this type of exercise.

Frequently asked questions

Benefits of weighted vest walking?

The research suggests that weighted vest walking can help improve cardiorespiratory fitness, increase fat burn, and build muscle.(1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

How often should I walk with a weighted vest?

You may want to gradually increase how often you wear a weighted vest when you’re just starting. You might eventually start wearing your weighted vest more.

How much weight should I use for weighted vest walking?

When starting, use a weight appropriate for your fitness level. As you get stronger, you can gradually increase the amount of weight you’re using.

How fast should I walk when using a weighted vest walking?

Walk at a brisk pace that allows you to maintain a conversation.

What if I have medical conditions or am pregnant?

Always consult your doctor before starting any new exercise program, including weighted vest walking. This is especially important if you have any medical conditions or are pregnant.

What are some safety tips for weighted vest walking?

Be aware of your surroundings and use caution when walking. Be especially careful when going up or downstairs, as the added weight could throw you off balance. When turning, take small steps to avoid losing your balance. If you need to run or jog in place, do so in a safe area where you won’t trip or fall. 

The bottom line

Walking with a weighted vest is an excellent way to get in shape, lose weight, and level up your walks.

The key is ensuring that it fits properly so you can walk briskly without feeling like you’re being weighed down.

When starting, it is best to use a weight appropriate for your fitness level. As you get stronger, you can gradually increase the amount of weight you are using.

Always consult your doctor before starting any new exercise program, including weighted vest walking.

Another great thing about weighted vest walking is that you can do it almost anywhere. All you need is a good-quality vest and a safe place to walk.

This makes it a great option for those who don’t have access to a gym or other workout equipment.

So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and start reaping the many benefits of weighted vest walking!

Disclaimer

Remember: this post is for informational purposes only and may not be the best fit for you and your personal situation. It shall not be construed as medical advice. The information and education provided here is not intended or implied to supplement or replace professional medical treatment, advice, and/or diagnosis. Always check with your own physician or medical professional before trying or implementing any information read here.

Noah Quezada is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist located in Denver, Colorado. Over the course of more than a decade, he has gained extensive experience in helping clients manage their weight through in-person sessions. Noah is also the 2023 President of the Colorado Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

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