The Better Bones Blog

by Dr. Susan Brown, PhD.

Top questions about a weight vest for Better Bones

weight vest better bones

Using a weighted vest long term is just as effective as drug therapy in building bone mass, according to research reports. And based on my personal experience I can tell you that with regular use you will enjoy better balance, experience less falls and build both full body strength and bone strength.

With these amazing results, a lot of you have more questions about how the vest works, what you need to do and if it is safe for you to try. Here are answers to the top questions I receive about wearing a weighted vest:

Q: Will a weight vest really help me build bone?

A: Several clinical studies demonstrate how the regular use of the weight vest helps to build bone density by adding extra weight and a greater impact to your steps. This is especially critical for thin women, who have less of a weight-bearing effect to their bones when they walk.

As you use the vest over time, you’ll note you are building muscle strength. Remember, studies show you that as you build muscle you also build bone.

Q: How often should I use the vest?

A: It’s best to use the vest daily or at least every other day. The most bone-strengthening benefits are seen with regular, long-term use over the years.

Personally, I’ve worked up to putting 19 pounds in my vest — and I really like to wear the vest when I walk my dog. Each time the dog stops to smell a mail box, I do a few small hops giving additional impact to the hip.

Q: How much time should I wear the vest?

For most healthy individuals the answer is the longer time you have it on the better. Various studies used the vest for at least 1 hour, 3 times a week. Remember, it is important to build up strength and work up slowly on the weights. And, take the vest off when you find yourself getting fatigued.

Q: How much weight do I start with?

A: You should start with 1-2 pounds of weight. The vest itself weighs 1 pound, so a gentle start is to add 1 extra pound (which equals 2 of the flexible weight packets) to get started. You’re working toward a goal of loading the vest with 10% of your body. For example, a woman who weighs 100 pounds would work up to 10 pounds in the vest.

Q: What is the maximum amount of weight I can use in the vest?

A: The vest has pockets to hold 18 pounds of flex-weights, plus the vest itself which weighs 1 pound.

Q: How do I put the weights in the vest?

A: The unique soft flex metal weights are very easy to manipulate in and out of the pockets on the vest. They are even easy to use for anyone with arthritis.

Q: What activities can I do in this vest?

A: Most all activities! It is great to wear the vest while doing a wide range of activities — from walking to housework to strength training, Pilates and yoga. Wearing the vest is a great way to accomplish more during your exercise time.

Q: Can I jog while wearing this vest?

A: Yes, if you like to jog and jogging with the vest is comfortable this is a great way to get extra bone-building impact with each step. This particularly strengthens the hip.

Q: Does the vest adjust to fit my size?

A: This vest is fully adjustable and fits most everyone from very petite women to larger-boned women. It adjusts on the shoulder for women who are short in the torso or for those who are tall (from under 24 inches to over 50 inches). In addition this vest adjusts around the waist for a snug fit. This high quality Women’s Zipper Front Vest™ can quickly be adjusted to fit women from below 5 feet to over 6 feet tall.

Q: What is the vest made of?

A: The outer shell is nylon with a knitted nylon stretch neoprene chest. The vest has soft double stitched bound edges with Lycra and neoprene stretch pockets for the weights. There is comfortable padding in shoulders with the back and waist shoulder adjustments.

Q: Is the vest washable?

A: The Women’s Zipper Front Vest™ can be hand washed with the weights inside or machine washed with the weights removed.

Q: Where can I get additional weights?

A: Extra flex-weights are available here.

Q: Will the extra flex-metal weights from my existing vest also work with this vest?

A: Yes, you can add other weights you have as long as they fit into the pockets.

Q: I have pain issues. Can I use this vest?

A: This really depends on the sort of pain you have. You should always check with your physician or physical therapist before beginning any exercise regimen if you have pain. Take special care to seek professional advice before using the vest if you have any sort of back pain.

Q: What if I don’t like, or can’t use, this vest after I buy it?

A: You can try the vest for two weeks from that date of delivery. If in that time you decide it is not for you we will refund you for the cost of the vest.

Q: Do I need my doctor’s permission to use this vest?

A: The vest is very safe because you totally control the amount of weight you put in it. By itself, or with say one weight in it, it is like wearing a jacket. If course, if you have a special health concern, or a back issue, it is wise to discuss the use of this vest with your doctor.

You can learn more about my weight vest here.

 

References:

Jessup, J et al., 2003, Effects of exercise on bone density, balance, and self-efficacy in older women, Biol Res Nurs 2003, 4:171-180.

Snow, C et al., “Long Term Exercise Using Weighted Vests Prevents Hip Bone Loss in Postmenopausal Women”, Jr of Gerontology: Medical Sciences 2000, Vol. 55A, No. 9, M489-M491.

Snow, C, Marcus, R et al., 1991. “Exercise, Bone Mineral Density, and Osteoporosis”, Jr of Exercise and Sport Sciences 1991, Vol. 19:351-388.

High perceived stress level increases fracture risk

Do you think you’re a stressed-out person? I certainly think I am — which is one reason I’m so interested in the results of a new Danish study looking at perceived stress and fracture risk.

Not only did the study find that high-stressed participants had a 68% increased risk of hip fracture and a 37% increased risk of any osteoporotic fracture. The research also suggests that it’s not just the stress itself, but our perception of that stress that’s important.

The study determined this with nearly 8,000 Danish adults age 55+ who were categorized according to their self-perceived level of stress. Note that the researchers didn’t try to measure the level or type of stress itself! Instead, they asked the individual participants to describe what their level of stress was — then watched to see who in the cohort experienced an osteoporotic fracture over the next five years.

The one-fourth of people who reported a “high” level of perceived stress had the significantly increased risk of fractures – again a 68% increased risk of hip fracture and a 37% increased risk of any osteoporotic fracture – compared to those who reported “low” perceived stress.

How to free yourself from worry and stress

I’m quick to identify myself with that high-risk cohort. My mother dubbed me her “worry wart” and that personality trait still challenges me today.

That’s why I took up meditation and have developed various methods to “dial down” my perception of stress. A favorite self-help approach is what I call the “BE FREE” method. Those of you who are also “worry warts” might give it a try.

  • BreathE: Throughout the day, I consciously try to stop what I’m doing and slow down my breathing. Just two or three slow, deep breaths offer a calming chance for the more rational part of my brain to kick in. This exercise is all the more important when I find myself in a stressful situation.
  • Feel: Once I’m quieted down, I focus my attention inward, telling myself to note the emotional response I am feeling—fear, anger, frustration, jealousy, or whatever. I just allow myself to feel that particular energy.
  • RElease: Next, I intentionally release the negative emotion, and the energy behind it dissipates. I can feel my heartbeat slow, and the anxiety-producing stress hormones begin to quiet down.
  • Envision: Still taking deep, conscious breaths, I asked myself, “How do I want to feel?” or “How do I want to be?” Then I envision that desired energy flowing through my body.

If you give it a try, let me know how my “BE FREE” method worked for you. Even more, perhaps you’d like to share some of your personal methods and tips for maintaining resilience amid the ups, downs and of modern life. I would love to hear about them!

Reference:

Pedersen AB, Baggesen LM, Ehrenstein V, et al. Perceived stress and risk of any osteoporotic fracture. Osteoporosis International, 2016;27:2035–2043.

hypercalciuria

Are you losing too much calcium in your urine?

What’s the biggest problem with calcium? It may come as a surprise that while most people don’t have a problem getting enough calcium, there is a major problem for many people when it comes to keeping calcium in their body so that it can help strengthen bone.

In fact, 20% or more of people with osteoporosis suffer from hypercalciuria — excessive loss of calcium in the urine. No matter what the cause, hypercalciuria always jeopardizes bone and is associated with lower bone density and increased fracture risk.

The link between hypercalciuria and osteoporosis is so strong that expert researchers suggest everyone with a diagnosis of osteoporosis be screened for it.

Do you have hypercalciuria?

Luckily, there’s a fairly simple laboratory test to determine if you’re losing calcium. You’re asked to collect your urine over 24 hours and submit it for chemical analysis to determine how much calcium it contains. Most labs consider any 24-hour calcium loss over 250–300 mg of calcium to be excessive.

  • If your 24-hour urine calcium comes back high, don’t panic: You may have gotten that result simply because you are taking too much calcium. When there’s an unusually high consumption of calcium from diet and supplements, the body simply moves unneeded calcium from the body into urine to get rid of it. Your doctor will likely recommend you retake the test, but this time avoiding all calcium supplements (and probably also dairy foods) for a week before again collecting your 24-hour urine sample.
  • If your re-test shows you’re genuinely losing calcium, again: don’t panic. Excessive calcium loss in the urine can be due to factors like high intake of salt, caffeine, soda, or sugar, low levels of nutrients like magnesium, vitamin D, and vitamin K, and even prolonged stress. These factors all promote an acidic pH (which promotes calcium loss), and they’re all things you can begin correcting on your own.

Dietary and lifestyle changes may not always solve the problem (though they may), as loss of calcium can also be related to medical issues such as hyperparathyroidism, kidney issues, hyper-absorption of calcium, vitamin D toxicity, autoimmune sarcoidosis or excessive bone breakdown related to “silent” diseases like diabetes or thyroid disorders. If your calcium excretion is consistently high, such possible causes should be explored by your physician.

What are your options if you have hypercalciuria?

If testing confirms you’re losing excessive calcium but your healthcare practitioner can’t identify and correct the cause of this problem, it’s pretty common practice to recommend a thiazide diuretic, which is known to help keep calcium in the body.

I favor the approach used by functional medicine and naturopathic practitioners, which is to first try to reduce urine calcium loss with a program of lifestyle and nutritional changes, perhaps combined with acupuncture to enhance kidney functioning, before using medications. But no matter what therapeutic approach you choose, it’s always important to retest and make sure that you have effectively reduced the loss of calcium in the urine.

Keep in mind that a high loss of calcium in the urine not only weakens bone, but also puts you at risk of developing kidney stones. Thus, if you are experiencing a high loss of calcium in the urine, be sure to drink plenty of water; this dilutes urine and reduces the risk of kidney stones. (This works both ways: if you have a history of kidney stone formation, be sure to get testing for excessive urinary calcium loss.)

Here at the Center for Better Bones, I suggest every person with an osteoporosis diagnosis be tested to rule out hypercalciuria. For more information see my DVD on uncovering the hidden causes of bone loss and my article about testing for bone loss.

 

Diet and lifestyle contribute to urine calcium loss

High salt intake

High alcohol and caffeine consumption

A diet high in sodas, refined carbohydrates and sugar

Excess protein intake

Low intake of vegetables, fruits, root crops, nuts and seeds

Acid-forming diet

Low dietary intake of potassium, magnesium, vitamin K

Prolonged stress and high cortisol

 

References:

Asplin JR, Donahue S, Kinder J, Coe FL. Urine calcium excretion predicts bone loss in idiopathic hypercalciuria. Kidney Int 2006;70:1463–1467.

Girón-Prieto MS, Cano-García M, Poyatos-Andújar A, et al. The value of hypercalciuria in patients with osteopenia versus osteoporosis. Urolithiasis August 2016. DOI: 10.1007/s00240-016-0909-2

Giannini S, Nobile M, Dalle Carbonare L, et al. Hypercalciuria is common and important finding and postmenopausal women with osteoporosis. Eur J Endocrinol 2003;149:209–213.

 

 


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