With the obesity rate so high, many people are looking for tips to lose weight and prevent those extra pounds from creeping on with age. Most people like immediate gratification and the thrill of seeing results fast. Yet there are no shortcuts to losing weight. Any weight you lose through fad diets, you’ll regain over time and sometimes more.
The key to healthy weight control is still to eat a nutrient-dense diet and stay physically active. But, occasionally, science reveals an interesting tip that in conjunction with a healthy diet might offer a slight edge for keeping those extra pounds in check. Could a weighted vest be the answer?
You may have seen people wearing weighted vests, sleeveless jackets you strap on that add extra weight to your body. Some people wear these vests when they walk to make the task a bit harder and burn more calories. Now a new study shows that wearing a weighted vest may help with weight loss too, even if you only wear it around the house.
What a Study Showed about Weighted Vests
For the study, researchers recruited 69 people with mild obesity. Half of the subjects wore an 11-kilogram weight vest eight hours per day. The other half wore a weight vest that weighed only 1 kilogram. The participants went about their daily activities but did no structured exercise beyond their daily activities.
At the end of three weeks, the researchers tabulated and compared the weight loss between the two groups. The results? The group, who wore the light-weight vests, lost an average of 300 grams of weight, the equivalent of about 0.7 pounds. But the other group who wore the heavier vests shed 1.6 kilograms of body weight, roughly 3.6 pounds. Quite a difference! Most people would be happy with such results!
Just as encouraging is the fact that the participants lost body fat and retained their muscle tissue. One problem with people who diet aggressively is they can get muscle breakdown and lose muscle along with body fat. This didn’t happen when the subjects wore a weight vest. They only lost body fat.
How Might Wearing a Weighted Vest Cause Weight Loss?
Scientists aren’t sure how wearing a weight vest causes weight loss. One theory is wearing the extra weight tricks the body into thinking it’s heavier than it is. If you gain actual body weight from overeating and under-exercising, your body senses the weight change and sets into motion changes that help you get back to your baseline body weight. This is consistent with the idea that there’s a set point weight that your body wants to maintain. Once you get outside that range, hormonal changes come into play that make it easier to get back to your set point weight. For example, your appetite may change, and you may feel more or less inclined to move around. Therefore, it’s about fooling your body into thinking that extra weight from the weight vest is a gain in body weight.
Do Weight Vests Have Other Benefits?
Another concern that all women and some men are concerned about is bone health. Just as you lose muscle mass with age, you lose bone mass too. One of the most common chronic health problems in women after menopause is osteoporosis, a condition that weakens bones and makes them prone to breakage with minimal trauma. Can weighted vests prevent bone loss?
Some studies show that doing high impact exercise or walking while wearing a weighted vest is beneficial for bone health. The ideal weight of the vest appears to be 4 to 10% of a person’s body weight. For example, if you weigh 130 pounds, strap on a weight vest between 5 and 13 pounds in weight. It would be best to start with the lighter vest and work up to the maximum. Although preliminary studies are encouraging and it makes sense from a physiological standpoint, it’s not proven yet that wearing a weighted vest prevents osteoporosis. However, weight vests are inexpensive and there are few risks to wearing one.
One small study of only 9 women found that women who took part in an exercise program that involved jumping with a weighted vest for 5 years, experienced no significant bone loss in their hips over the course of the study while those who didn’t wear a weighted vest lost 3-4% of their bone mass in the hip area.
One study even found that wearing a weighted vest during weight-bearing exercise improved muscle strength and power capabilities and enhanced dynamic balance in postmenopausal women. This may lower the risk of falls.
If you wear a weighted vest around the house or during exercise:
- Make sure it’s not heavier than 10% of your body weight. Start lighter, around 4% at first.
- Consider a vest where you can adjust the weight, so you can start low & increase the weight.
- Make sure your vest fits well and feels comfortable. A vest that fits poorly can throw off your balance.
- Strength train to develop baseline strength before wearing a weighted vest.
- Don’t use a weighted vest for exercises where you bend over as it could place too much stress on your spine.
- Check with your physician if you already have osteoporosis before wearing one.
The Bottom Line
There are some advantages to wearing a weighted vest, and as this new study suggests, it may even slow bone loss. Be sure to keep the above precautions in mind if you wear a weight vest during exercise or around the house. It’s a small step you can take to potentially give your bones a boost!
- Science Daily. “Reduced obesity for weighted-vest wearers”
- BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2015; 16: 352. Published online 2015 Nov 14. doi: 10.1186/s12891-015-0811-z,
- J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2000 Sep;55(9):M489-91.
- American Bone Health. “Weighted Vests for Bone Health”
- Snow CM, et al. Long-term exercise using weighted vests prevents hip bone loss in postmenopausal women. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci 55(9); M489-491, 2000.
- J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 1998 Jan;53(1):M53-8.