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. 

What weighted vest is right for me?

When it comes to finding the right weighted vest, there are several things to consider. My personal favorite is the 511 weighted vest because it offers interchangeable weights, durable materials, and is reasonably priced.

Size 

Make sure to choose a vest that is the correct size for you. It should fit comfortably and not be too tight or too loose. Also consider the length of the vest, If it is too long of a vest, it can prevent you from bending over. 

Weight 

You can find weighted vests from as low as 6-8 pounds up to 100 pounds. Plus, certain brands offer adjustable weighted vests. Ideally, you will want to work up to a weight that is 20-30% of your body weight. 

This is why I went for the 511 vest, which can carry as little as 5 pounds of weight up to 80 lbs.

Material

The material of the vest is also important to consider. Some vests are made with breathable materials, while others are not. If you plan on wearing the vest for long periods, choose a breathable option.

Price

Weighted vests can range in price, so choose one that fits your budget. 

I found the cheapest weighted vest costing 22.99, on Amazon.

The most expensive one I found was 219.99, also on Amazon.

 As an Amazon affiliate, if you click on one of the links, I may receive a commission at no cost.

Reviews 

Be sure to read reviews before purchasing a weighted vest. This will help you to find the best vest for your needs.

When shopping for a weighted vest, it’s important to consider its size, weight, and material. 

The Risks of Walking With a Weight Vest

Walking with a weighted vest can be a great way to improve your fitness level, but it’s important to be aware of the risks associated with this type of exercise. 

Here are a few things to keep in mind:

1) Make sure the weight of the vest is appropriate for your fitness level. If it’s too heavy, you could strain your muscles or joints.

2) Start slowly and gradually increase the time you wear the vest. If you start too quickly, you could tire yourself or even injure yourself.

3) Be sure to stay hydrated while wearing the vest. The extra weight can cause you to sweat more, so drinking plenty of fluids is important.

4) If you start to feel pain while wearing the vest, stop and rest. Walking with a weight vest is a great workout, but it’s important to listen to your body and take breaks when needed.

5) Be aware of your surroundings. If you’re walking in an area with traffic, make sure to stay aware of your surroundings and be cautious when crossing the street.

Walking with a weighted vest can be a great way to improve your fitness level, but it’s important to know the risks associated with this type of exercise. 

Always talk to your doctor before starting any new fitness routine, especially if you have any pre-existing medical conditions.

How to wear a weighted vest

Wearing a weighted vest is simple. Start by putting on the vest and adjusting it to fit snugly but comfortably.

Then, add the weight to the vest according to your desired level of resistance. Once the vest is weighted, you’re ready to start walking!

When wearing a weighted vest, it’s important to make sure that it fits comfortably. The vest should be the correct size and not too tight or too loose.

It’s also important to choose a weight that is appropriate for your fitness level. If the vest is too heavy, you could strain your muscles.

Start slowly and gradually increase the amount of time you wear the vest. If you start too quickly, you could tire yourself out or even injure yourself.

Be sure to stay hydrated while wearing the vest. The extra weight can cause you to sweat more, so drinking plenty of fluids is important.

Stop and rest if you feel pain while wearing the vest. 

Walking with a weight vest is a great workout, but listening to your body and taking breaks when needed is important.

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.

Weighted vest walking tips

If you’re looking to level up your walks and you are considering adding a weighted vest to your walking routine. 

Here are five tips for walking with a weighted vest:

  1. Start with a lightweight if you’re new to weighted vest walking. This will help you get used to the added weight and prevent any injuries.
  2. Walk at a brisk pace. You want to be able to maintain a conversation while you’re walking.
  3. Increase the weight gradually as you get stronger.
  4. Always consult with your doctor before starting any new exercise program.
  5. Have fun and enjoy your workouts! 

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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