Weight Belts vs Weight Vests

Jst thought I would run this by you all, I have been wearing 5# ankle weights and have added 5 # as a waist weight when walking and going to Curves. Well, I am wanting to add more weight and have been reading about weight vests, but today my instructor shared with me about a weight belt that has small flexible 1# lead weights that can be inserted one at a time, much like the vests. The vest would cause me less flexibility, but this belt sounds promising.

Has anyone had experience with a belt? Perhaps you can share the pros and cons with us.


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I've not tried any of the body weights but the general theory is that you want to stress as much of the skeleton as possible. Have a look at the exercises suggested where anything that supports weight is low rated, so its better to stand than sit. Ideally you would want to use wrist or hand weights first and combine that with a neck or shoulder weight so as to get the weight located up as high as possible.
If you have particular bone loss in the legs, then the weight belt would be a good improvement in targeting the legs and hips. It would also be good to check out any research on carrying weight daily as a solution to bone loss to see what works.

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It is very important to check with your health care provider or physical therapist to determine if a weighted vest or belt is appropriate for you. I'm not aware of any definitive studies using weighted vests and bone strength.

This is the most important thing to know:
It could be very unsafe to wear a weighted vest or belt at all if your bones are extremely fragile or if you have kyphosis, rounding of the upper spine.

If you do get the okay from your health care provider to use a weighted vest or belt, here are some tips from an NOF-affiliated physical therapist on choosing a weighted vest:

“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.

Always 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.

By the way, mcsurf, I know that it seems like a good idea, but wearing ankle weights while walking increases you chance of falling because your reaction time will be slower if you trip. In my strength training classes, I make sure that my participants put their ankle/leg weights on when they're all settled and don't have to move anywhere. If they do need to walk somewhere, they take off their weights first. Carrying weights in your hands can cause repetitive stress problems in your joints. For safety, it seems to work nicely to use weights in your strength training routine and not mix them with your aerobic activities. Keep moving, but stay safe!

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SusieHathaway, I'm wondering if you can help me. I have a quick question for you in response to: "... Carrying weights in your hands can cause repetitive stress problems in your joints."

Today I just began holding 1 lb weights in each hand while I do my brisk 40 minute daily treadmill walk. I held onto them with my elbows bent at a 90 degree angle and my arms close to my body. I didn't hold onto them consistently for the entire walk though. I walked with them for about 1 minute and then put them down. During the course of the 40 minutes, I picked them up about 10 times ... or for a total of 10 minutes during my walk. Is this okay to do?

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Hi Little-Sparrow!
It sounds like you were being very careful not to overdo it with the weights. In general, it's good to be aware of any kind of discomfort in your elbows or shoulders if you do walk with weights in your hands. I use an elliptical trainer with "arms" to push back and forth for upper body exercise. Sometimes that bothers one of my shoulders, so then I'll just hang on to the handle bar for stability and not use the "arms". But, if I keep varying the position of my grip and pause every so often, just like you did with the weights, then it's not a problem.
But, keep "listening" to your body, always stay in a pain-free, safe range of motion and don't use weights when walking if it makes anything hurt.
That is impressive that you do a daily 40 minute brisk walk!
Keep up the great work!

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Thank you so much for your advice SusieH. I really appreciate it! :)

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I can imagine what pain I would be in if weight were added to my shoulders in the form of a vest. My spine is compressed quite enough as it is.

I'm already overweight, so I'm carrying extra weight around every moment of my day.

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Just fyi, this article from Susan Brown references studies in support of weight vests: http://www.betterbones.com/blog/post/Weighted-vest.aspx

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@Jackie_t, I have a bit of an issue regarding a quote from the link that you have posted:

"There are so many interesting studies about the benefits of the weighted vest. One of my favorites looked at women aged 65–73 who exercised three times a week doing strength training (without the vest) combined with walking, stair climbing, and balance exercises while wearing the weighted vest. Gradually the weight in the vest was raised to 10% of the participant’s body weight.
Over the 32-week study, those doing the exercises with the vest gained 11% bone density in the hip (in the area known as the femoral neck, where fractures often take place), while also increasing balance and strength, and reducing body sway. The non-exercising sedentary control women lost significant hip density in the femoral neck."

According to that excerpt, the women who wore the weighted vest gained 11% bone density in the femoral neck in just 32 weeks. My problem with this is that I don't "think" that it's physically possible for bone density in the femoral neck to grow this much in such a short period of time. Don't get me wrong. I'm a huge believer in exercise (strength, weightbearing, balance, functional ....). My problem arises with the stats in the quote from the link that you have posted.

Hopefully, someone will be able to educate me that bone mass can indeed increase by 11% in 32 weeks.

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