Weighted Vests for Osteoporosis Prevention
Research on weighted vests has shown promising results for osteoporosis prevention. It’s another strength training tool to increase muscle strength which stimulates the development of bone strength.
I’d first get the okay from your doctor or physical therapist about the safety, for you individually, of wearing a weighted vest. If you have health issues or bone loss, work with a physical therapist or other qualified health professional before using a weighted vest or belt to make sure that you can move safely while wearing it.
Tips when wearing a weighted vest:
- Keep excellent, upright posture with shoulders back and down. Stand tall! If it’s too hard to do that, don’t use the vest. When I wear mine, I have to be diligent to not slouch as I’m getting tired.
- Wear it for only a few minutes at first, gradually increasing the time as tolerated. If you’re experiencing pain anywhere, don’t wear it. If I wear mine too long, it bothers my lower back.
- Get a vest with adjustable weights and start small.
- Move slowly. Your center of gravity is higher and your balance will be challenged.
- In general, use a weighted vest only when standing upright, doing weight bearing (on your feet) exercise and not bending over. It could put too much pressure on your muscles and spine, even if you have great posture and hinge back at the hips when you bend down.
The subjects in the weighted vest research studies did not have bone loss or other health issues that could have put them at risk. It could be very unsafe to wear a weighted vest or belt at all if your bones are extremely fragile, if you have kyphosis, rounding of the upper spine, or balance problems, to name a few. Depending on your bone strength, wearing one could put you at risk of a vertebral fracture or fall.
If you get the go-ahead from your health care provider, a National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) affiliated physical therapist suggests looking for a weighted vest that fits well through the torso and isn’t top heavy.
“There are some weighted vests that are not safe for people with osteoporosis, especially if they have kyphosis (curvature of the spine). These include vests that sit on the shoulders and only have weights on the upper part of the trunk. This could increase the stress on the spine, causing increased kyphosis. A safer vest is weighted throughout the trunk. These are especially good when they are well fitted at the waist. This should spread stress evenly around the trunk, reducing the weight from the top of the shoulders. They must fit very well, be tightened around the waist, and should still not be used if the person has kyphosis.”…or very fragile bones.
Some suggest using a backpack filled with books. It’s not a good thing to do because it wouldn’t be “…weighted throughout the trunk…”, plus, it’s uncomfortable.
Most often, weighted vests are usually made for men for athletic training. You’ll have to shop around for a woman’s size, usually online. Always keep good body mechanics and move safely when getting up and down. If you have bone loss, I’d skip using the vest with the plank.
The one that I’m wearing in the picture is no longer available. This one from IronWear Fitness seems to be the closest to it, but it’s expensive! http://ironwearfitness.com/woveaheco1to.html
From PubMed.gov*Links to some of the research:
Long-term exercise using weighted vests prevents hip bone loss in postmenopausal women. 2000
Weighted vest exercise improves indices of fall risk in older women. 1998
Site-specific response of bone to exercise in premenopausal women. 2006
Please heed all of the above precautions and stay safe!
Best of luck!–Susie
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