Weight Vest Pros & Cons

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If you want to increase the intensity of your workout, you may want to strap on a weight vest. Wearing a weighted vest can help increase your calorie burn and build greater power in athletes. A weighted vest isn't for everyone, though. You should evaluate your goals, posses a solid level of fitness and consult a fitness expert before adding a vest to your workouts.

Weight Loss and Health

  • Wearing a weighted vest while walking can help you burn more calories, increase exercise intensity and enhance the weight-bearing nature of your workout, notes a study published in 2006 in “Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.” Burning more calories can help you lose weight, and increasing exercise intensity may help improve your cardiovascular conditioning. Weight-bearing exercise makes your bones stronger and reduces your risk of osteoporosis. Be wary though of adding too much weight with a vest. You may think more is better, but a weight vest that weighs more than about 20 percent of your total weight -- 30 pounds for a 150-pound person -- could strain your back. Many weight vests weigh 50 pounds or more and may do more harm than good.

Endurance Performance

  • Adding more weight temporarily while running or cycling can make you stronger, but gaining weight is not a practical nor desirable. A weighted vest is a temporary way to benefit from hauling additional pounds. A study in 1987 in the “European Journal of Applied Physiology and Occupational Physiology” found that wearing a weighted vest, equal to 9 to 10 percent of body weight, all day for four weeks improved endurance athletes’ running stamina, stair running and ability to use oxygen during exercise. Wearing the vest morning to night can be cumbersome, though, and impractical. If you wear the vest during endurance exercise, such as running, it could alter your alignment and gait, which may lead to injury. Wearing a vest during endurance training can offer a benefit to people who need to carry extra weight during exertion, such as firefighters.

Jump Training and Agility

  • A study published in the November 2012 issue of the “Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research” concluded that wearing a weighted vest during training that involves movement such as jump training offers a modest improvement in agility. Well-trained athletes might benefit from the use of a weighted vest, but it could be a negative addition if you have not mastered jumping -- or plyometric -- movements without a vest. The added weight increases the load on your joints, particularly your knees, hips and ankles, which increases risk of injury.

Cost and Design

  • Some weight vests feature adjustable weight. They have strategically placed pockets into which you can insert varying weights. This type of vest permits you to start with a light load and increase as you become more fit, rather than requiring you to purchase an entirely new vest when your fitness level progresses. Vests range in price, and less-expensive models may not offer a good fit or quality.

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