By Cameron Vazquez, MPH
For many years now, we here at the Center for Better Bones — as well as our clients! — have been singing the praises of weighted exercise vests and belts. And how can we not? Not only does weighted exercise equipment allow us to do less and accomplish more, but numerous studies have shown that weighted vests and belts can improve strength, balance, and muscle mass, halt bone loss, and even build bone! You can see all of these studies in our blog, Weighing In on Wearing Weights: How Weighted Vests and Weighted Belts Can Help You. So why are we talking about weighted exercise equipment yet again? Because the research in support of weighted vests and belts keeps coming to our attention!
The use of weighted vests in a Norwegian clinical trial
Another fascinating study on the impact of weighted exercise vests on fracture risk factors comes from Norway. (1) This study followed 42 postmenopausal women over the age of 50 with osteopenia and a healed wrist fracture. These participants completed a 6-month exercise program called OsteoACTIVE that consisted of 60-minute sessions held 3 times a week. The exercises performed were designed for strength, balance, coordination, and core stabilization. For more specifics about the exercises performed and to see images, please refer to the original research article.
Weighted vests were used during exercise. Each participant started with two 1.1 kg weights (approximately 2.43 pounds) and all but 3 participants worked up to nine weights (about 21.9 pounds) by the end of the program.
At the end of the 6-month program, a significant improvement in both hip bone density and quad strength was observed. At the 1-year follow-up, it was discovered that there was a significant improvement in dynamic balance compared to the baseline measurements. Here is yet another study (2) that affirms these groundbreaking findings on weight-bearing exercises from 1998!
Why we love weighted vests beyond their bone benefits
With all of the research supporting their positive impact on bone, it’s no wonder why we stand behind weighted vests. However, the benefits don’t stop there! While incredibly important for your health, we understand that voluntary exercise is no easy feat. With limited time and resources, it’s important to make the most of your workouts — something that can be easily done with a weighted vest! A few more reasons why we love weighted vests are:
- They’re convenient — weighted vests can be worn to add extra weight while doing pretty much anything, including household chores, dancing, walking, etc.
- Weighted vests include a progressive program — you can (and should) start off slowly and add weight as you go.
- Weighted vests are relatively safe — there is less risk of injury because of the gradual buildup of weight.
- Weighted vests allow you to do less and accomplish more!
We’d also like to note that while there is not as much research on weighted belts, they are still a great option for many. You can read more about weighted belts in our blog, The Weighted Belt: A New Exercise Tool to Build Bone.
Preventing bone loss during weight loss
Weight loss among overweight adults improves the prognosis of health outcomes; however, such weight loss comes at a cost to bone. When older adults lose weight, they also lose bone. Currently, U.S. scientists are conducting a study combining weight loss programs with resistance exercises incorporating the weighted vest. They propose that using weight vests along with resistance exercise will be more effective for preventing weight-loss-induced bone loss than resistance exercise alone. (3)
These researchers propose that weighted vests are likely to be very helpful for several reasons:
- They’re feasible — older adults are more likely to use a weighted vest than get a gym membership, learn about resistance training, or seek proper resistance training supervision.
- Resistance training alone may not be enough to prevent weight-loss-related bone loss.
- Weighted vests during exercise can increase BMD and bone turnover, and may impact muscle power.
Therefore, the weighted vest could be a solution to preventing unnecessary bone loss while losing weight!
Better Bones Exercise Resources
Weighted Vest and Belt
Interested in weighted exercise equipment? You can check out our weighted exercise vest and belt here!
Webinar with Dr. Belinda Beck of the Australian Bone Clinic
Have you ever been told that as an older person, it’s great to exercise, but that you can’t build substantial bone with exercise? Dr. Brown sits down with Dr. Belinda Beck, the Australian scientist whose groundbreaking clinical trials clearly document that older individuals can rebuild bone mass with high intensity, high resistance, strength training. We like to call her the bone-building mythbuster. Click here to watch Dr. Brown and Dr. Beck discuss exercise and bone health!
Exercise Evolution with Gina Galli, RYT
Exercise Evolution is our exciting new affordable subscription program that we offer on Patreon.com. This program will include monthly videos, Dr. Brown’s learning library, a community sharing page, monthly exercise plans to build bone, access to the Better Bones diet, an exercise tracking portal, and more! This program is not only accessible, but safe. Our goal is to create a community full of like-minded individuals that support one another and are ready to get out there and get healthy!
- Hakestad, K. A., et al. 2015. Exercises including weight vests and a patient education program for women with osteopenia: A feasibility study of the OsteoACTIVE rehabilitation program. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy 45(2): 57-147.
- Shaw, J. M., and C. M. Snow. 1998. Weighted vest exercise improves indices of fall risk in older women. The Journals of Gerontology. Series A, Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences 53(1):M53-M58.
- Miller, R. M., et al. 2021. Incorporating nutrition, vests, education, and strength training (INVEST) in bone health: Trial design and methods. Contemporary Clinical Trials 104:106326.