Do Weighted Vests Help When Running

A weighted vest is a device used by exercisers to make workouts more challenging. Weight vests are available in a variety of styles, but most are made of strong nylon, held in place with elastic Velcro straps and are weight adjustable by adding or removing metal ingots.

A weight vest can make running more demanding. (Image: jacoblund/iStock/GettyImages)

Weighted vests can be used for a variety of workouts, including walking, calisthenic exercises and running.

Tip

An appropriately weighted vest will enhance your calorie burn and strengthen your legs, but it won't improve your running style.

Increased Cardiovascular Demands

The recruits participating in the FBI physical fitness test are required to wear weighted vests during some of the exercises, most notably the "weighted pull-ups." Wearing a weighted vest makes exercises that require you to overcome gravity more demanding, and possibly more effective.

By wearing a weighted running vest, you increase the cardiovascular demands of your workout, even if you run at a slower speed. The increase in cardiovascular intensity can be slight or extreme, depending on the weight of your vest.

Demands and Benefits

The extra demands placed on your muscles when running in a weight vest can increase lower-body strength and endurance. This will be particularly noticeable when you perform the same runs without your vest.

As well as making your muscles stronger, wearing a weighted vest when running will increase the load transmitted through your bones. The extra loading can result in increased bone mass by stimulating cells called osteoblasts to lay down new bone material in response to the demands being placed on your skeleton.

Your Running Style

While a weighted vest increases the demand placed on your legs and cardiovascular system, too big a load can have an adverse effect on your running style. If the vest is too heavy, you may find that you run using a lower, shorter stride pattern, which subsequently alters technique when you return to running without a vest. It could mean that, despite the fact you may be stronger and fitter than before, you may not be able to run faster or farther.

Impact and Force

ACE Fitness suggests weighted vests for the clients they are training in walking programs mainly because wearing them doesn't feel as challenging as an increase in speed. Wearing a weighted vest increases the impact and forces that are transmitted through your legs. If you use a vest that is too heavy, the stress may prove injurious.

To minimize your risk of injury, use light weights initially and gradually increase them. If you are new to running in a weighted vest, 10 percent of your body weight is an appropriate load, says Harvard Health Publishing. Harvard Health also warns that weighted vests are not for people with back or neck issues.

Your Running Ability

While wearing a vest will enhance calorie burning, strengthen your leg muscles and bones, and increase the difficulty of your workouts, it is unlikely to improve your running ability. The best way to increase your running skills is to run farther and faster. Wearing a weighted vest, especially a heavy one, is likely to result in slower, shorter workouts, which will not necessarily help your running skills.

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