Walking can offer valuable benefits but there are ways to make it even better. Find out whether weighted vests are good for walking and what the effects can be.
Because your body has to move more weight, walking with a weighted vest can benefit things like burning calories, muscle endurance, and cardiovascular health more per minute of bodyweight walking at the same speed.
At the same time, it is worth noting that weighted vests are not essential either. Walking at higher speeds or doing other exercises can sometimes offer similar benefits.
Whether you enjoy these activities as much as walking with a weighted vest is a case of details like personal preference and budget.
Something else to note is that making walking harder is not for everyone. Make sure you only implement a weighted vest in your routine if you can do so safely.
7 Benefits of walking with a weighted vest
Weighted vests can definitely be good for walking routines as long as you don’t overdo it. Find out what specific benefits you can expect.
1. Walking with a weighted vest could help you lose more weight
Losing weight in a healthy way comes down to using up excess body fat. This is basically energy your body stores in case you would run out of food.
To achieve weight loss, you need to make it so your body requires more energy than is coming in from food.
By moving more intensely than usual with an activity like walking, you increase how much energy you use. In turn, this makes it more likely you get to the point of losing weight and/or can speed up the process.
How much weight your body has to move plays a big role in how many calories it uses up.
That means walking with a weighted vest could help you lose even more weight because it makes you burn more calories per minute compared to the bodyweight version.
To put this into perspective, a rough estimation is that a 155-pound (70 kg) person burns around 128 calories while walking at 3 mph (4.8 kmh) for 30 minutes.
On the flip side, a 185-pound (83 kg) person burns around 153 calories while walking at 3 mph (4.8 kmh) for 30 minutes.
A 30-pound (13.6 kg) weighted vest will likely not help a 155-pound person burn exactly 25 calories (or 20% more calories) per 30 minutes.
However, this does show that walking with a weighted vest can help you burn more calories and hopefully help you lose more weight. Small amounts add up over time frames of a month and longer.
At the same time, something important to note is that other lifestyle habits like your diet play a big role in whether you lose weight and to what extent no matter what exercise you do.
Your before and after weight loss pictures could not change at all if your habits in these other areas are suboptimal.
2. Walking with a weighted vest works a few muscles more
Even while wearing a weighted vest, walking is typically a type of exercise that focuses on your cardiovascular system.
If you can do more than 50 steps with each leg without your muscles fatiguing, walking with a weighted vest will likely not help you build much, if any, muscle.
That being said, walking with a weighted vest does still work a few muscles. Some of these include:
- Core muscles like abs, obliques, and erector spinae
Even if you don’t actually grow these muscles, working them can offer a few benefits. These include slowing down degradation, making the muscles healthier, and improving muscle endurance.
Because of the extra weight from the vest, the muscles above will have to work harder. As long as you don’t overdo it, this can offer the benefits just mentioned to a larger extent than regular walking.
At the same time, if you are serious about working your muscles more, you likely want to turn to weight lifting exercises instead of walking.
3. Walking with a weighted vest can be better cardio
Your cardiovascular system includes your heart, lungs, and blood vessels.
This system is responsible for extracting oxygen from the air and moving the oxygen, nutrients, and waste products throughout your body.
When you go for walk, these processes need to happen to a larger extent so that your body can function at this higher intensity.
In turn, your cardiovascular system has to work harder.
Similar to many other areas of your body, doing this enough (but not too intensely) can strengthen the cardiovascular system.
Having a stronger cardiovascular system is typically good because it tends to lead to a reduced risk of related conditions.
This is where a weighted vest can benefit your walking workouts even more. By having to move more weight, your cardiovascular system has to work harder than usual even though you may walk at the same speed.
One thing to note is that weighted vests are not the only way to achieve this. You can also consider walking faster, walking uphill, or doing more intense exercises like walking to work your cardio more.
Additionally, people who are not used to exercising want to start with regular walking and build up from there if everything goes well.
4. Weighted vests are often better than a heavy backpack
At this point, you may be convinced about the benefits of walking with weights but there are other options too.
For example, you can fill a backpack with heavy objects to get the benefits above.
That being said, most people will prefer walking with a weighted vest over a backpack. At least in the context of short workouts where you don’t need any provisions.
A heavy backpack tends to distribute the weight unevenly. This can be uncomfortable on body parts like your back.
On the flip side, the best weighted vests for walking tend to have a weight distribution that feels more “natural”.
You engage more or less the same body parts in the same ratios as you normally would. Just to a larger extent.
In turn, you will likely find it easier to walk with a weighted vest every day compared to following the same exercise routine with a heavy backpack.
5. Walking with a weighted vest can improve bone density more
It may sound counterintuitive at first but your bones are actually “living” material.
Similar to many other body parts, you can strengthen your bones by putting them under enough but safe amounts of pressure.
Even something simple like walking will generally be better for your bone density than sitting or lying down.
By wearing a weighted vest on top of that, you put more pressure on your bones. This can help you improve bone density to at least some extent.
Doing this can help you avoid broken bones.
Even if you are not concerned about this right now, your current habits influence your future situation. The older you get, the harder it tends to be to improve bone density.
By improving your bone density right now by walking with a weighted vest, you can avoid accidents in the future.
Something to note is that you may want to consider heavier workouts too if you are interested in better bone density.
One study compared walking with a weighted vest (up to 8% of the body weight of the participants) to walking without one 3 times a week for 12 weeks.
They found improvements in bone health markers but these were not statistically significant.
6. Makes your walking more time-efficient
Most people know that they should implement more good workouts into their routines. However, they may prioritize other activities due to a lack of time.
Even so, getting a good workout is luckily not only about spending more time walking or doing other exercises. How intensely you move is an important factor too.
Cardiovascular workouts of shorter durations at higher intensities can have similar effects in certain areas as longer exercise sessions at lower intensities.
Walking with a weighted vest will generally be slightly more time-efficient than the bodyweight version of the activity.
This can be helpful for people who want to spend less time on their workouts.
How long you should walk a weighted vest depends on details like your fitness goals, priorities, and personal schedule.
Something to note is that more intense exercises like running, cycling, rowing, etc. could be even more time-efficient if your body can deal with them.
7. Could improve your balance more
Balance is a fitness component that can be improved by doing activities that are challenging (but not too challenging) in this area.
Interestingly enough, walking with a weighted vest can help improve your balance more than regular walking.
One small study with postmenopausal women divided participants into a group that walked with a weighted vest vs a group that did bodyweight walking vs a control group.
After 6 weeks of walking 3 times a week, the measurements implied that walking while wearing a weighted vest was better for improving balance than walking without a weighted vest.
One potential reason for this is that having stronger leg muscles tends to reduce the risk of falling. The better muscle endurance weighted vests offer could cause similar benefits.
Having better balance can help you avoid accidents in daily activities like walking around and climbing stairs.
Does walking with a weighted vest build muscle?
For most people walking with a weighted vest will not be challenging enough to build significant amounts of muscle. At the same time, wearing a weighted vest while walking can still improve muscle endurance more.