Weighted Vests for Osteoporosis Prevention

Weighted Vests for Osteoporosis Prevention

Weighted Vest with Reflective Stripes!
Weighted Vest with Reflective Stripes All Around!

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:

  • Do several months of consistent strength training to get a good base of strength before trying a weighted vest. Be sure to include core exercises. The strength workouts in my 2 DVDs are appropriate for this because they include core exercises for the back and abdominal muscles, as well arm and leg exercises.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Get a vest with adjustable weights and start very small, with only one weight insert.
  • 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.

Her suggestions:
“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.

Plank weighted vest
With bone loss, get your health care provider’s approval before exercising with a weighted vest!

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 weighted vest that I’m wearing in these pictures is no longer available. This one from IronWear Fitness is a one, made specifically for women. It can be adjusted up and down, as well as side to side, for an excellent fit. They also have weighted vests made with mesh that are cooler for summer use. Here’s the link for all of their vests. Scroll down to see the women’s styles.

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


Comments (Scroll to the bottom to leave your comment)

  1. My weight vest was purchased from Hyper Wear in Austin, TX. It fits close to the body, has side lacing for adjustments and the weights are 2 oz. ea. I started with 1/2 lb, wore it 2 hrs a day for a week, then 3 hr, etc. until I reached 7 hrs. a day. I then added 1/2 lb more and started the process over again. I’ve been at it 7 days a week since May 8. I do sit while wearing it for the longer duration since I drive a lot. I wear it only for normal daily activities, not when doing yoga or weight training. I’m wondering if 7 days a week is too many and if sitting has any problem attached. I don’t know where to turn for advice and hoped you might have some good information. One thing I was told was to stop wearing the vest for a time after reaching my maximum capability, then start again. My bone density average is -3 in hips and -3 in spine, both have improved a tiny bit since I began eating primarily a vegetable diet and started weight training. I’m 71 yrs old, 4’11” and weigh 92 lbs.
    Thanks, Jane

  2. Hi Jane! You had a number of good questions, so I went ahead and wrote a new blog post to address all of them so others could read them.
    It will be up soon.

  3. Is a weighted vest safe for 70 year old woman who has advanced ( high fracture risk), osteoporosis of neck (4.3), hip (3.6) . Also, Spondylitis, herniated disks, “bamboo spine”,stenosis, L4, L5 pain,mid back pain. Thank you

  4. Carolyn, with all of the issues you have with your spine, plus osteoporosis, I wouldn’t recommend a weighted vest. A one-on-one consultation with a physical therapist would be the best option for you. The PT could give you a safe, individualized exercise program, working around your sensitive areas.
    Best wishes,

  5. I have osteoarthritis in my lower back. I have a weighted vest. Can I use it and how much weight should I put on? I also have a weighted belt. Can I use it? I am 68 years old female.

  6. Monique, I hesitate to recommend using a weighted vest or belt with osteoarthritis of the back. Please get a referral from your healthcare provider to a physical therapist (PT) to address your arthritis issues before using those. With a personalized assessment, the PT could give you gentle strengthening exercises and individualized advice about the vest and belt.
    Best wishes,

  7. I am 71 years young and 5′ 1″ and 108 lbs. I do lots of yoga and walk several miles a day. Recently I was diagnosed with osteoporosis of the femur neck. I also have osteopenia in my lower spine and hip. I started wearing a weighted vest to walk in a couple of months ago. I am currently walking with 6 lbs. About 3 weeks ago I stared waking up with pain in my upper back. I don’t have a curvature in that area. I only experience the pain at night. I sleep on my back as I was told that was best by my chiro. I am thinking this is caused by the weighted vest. Do you think I should stop wearing it for a while and see if the pain goes away? Thanks in advance.

  8. Hello, Shirley!

    Yes, the vest could be the problem. Weighted vests can be problematic, especially if you wear one for long periods. Research is showing that it’s the uniqueness of a stimulus that helps bones, not long stretches of time. A weighted vest that causes pain is not helping your body.

    A strength training workout only twice a week could be better than wearing a weighted vest for hours a week.

    By the way, the femur neck is the top of the leg bone, the femur, and what is considered the “hip”.

    Best wishes,