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

A weight vest can make running more demanding. (Image: Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

Benefits - Cardiovascular

Wearing a weighted vest makes exercises that require you to overcome gravity more demanding, and possibly more effective. By wearing a weight 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.

Musculoskeletal 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.

Considerations

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.

Dangers

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, 5 percent of your body weight is an appropriate load.

Conclusion

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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