A weighted vest is an easy way to boost the benefits of running.
So why not wear one every time you run?
The truth is: the risks are far too great.
Unless you are a serious athlete, we strongly discourage you from running with a weight vest.
And even athletes should be very careful and consider all the risks before adding the weight.
The reason for this is the huge increase in injury risk that these vests present. It makes them unsuitable for endurance training.
Keep reading to learn why you should skip the vest while running, despite the benefits.
Table of Contents
- 1 Does Running With A Weighted Vest Help?
- 2 Running With A Weighted Vest: Final Thoughts
Does Running With A Weighted Vest Help?
Before we take a look at whether a weighted vest will do you any favors, we need to cover the main benefits of running in general.
Most of these benefits are boosted by using a vest, but that needs to be balanced against the increased risk such a vest poses.
Benefits Of Running
The following are the primary benefits of running. A weight vest increases all but the first and fourth of these benefits.
Thanks to the chemical reactions in your brain, exercise actually helps remove mental stress. This, in turn, helps alleviate physical stress on your body, which can further help your mental state. Reducing physical stress on your body has been linked to living a longer, healthier life.
Running engages dozens, if not hundreds, of muscles, all in the course of a few minutes. Then you spend twenty-plus minutes exercising those engaged muscles, forcing them to contract and expand, and strengthen throughout the workout.
Running is a great way to tone your body. But you also need to give your muscles time to rest and recover. That is why running after leg day is not a good idea, for example.
Even a small amount of extra weight can put major strains on your body. Running on a regular basis can help remove those extra pounds and make your body leaner and healthier overall.
Helps With Resolve
This isn’t a direct physical benefit, but if you can get through the discomfort of a twenty or thirty-minute run, then you can get through just about anything.
Running helps to rewire the brain and tells us that if we break our larger goals into smaller, more manageable ones, that we can compartmentalize them and achieve them. It might sound far-fetched, but running actually does help with this.
Bone Density Security
Your bones are dense, but as you age, they can lose that density. Over the age of thirty, you begin losing bone density on a pretty regular basis.
Running stimulates growth in the bones and continues to allocate calcium to them. Of course, you should probably follow this up with a calcium-rich diet as well to actually feed your bones what they need.
What Difference Does A Weighted Vest Make?
Wearing a weighted vest while running does make a difference. But even if you’re fit, it’s a bad difference, all things considered.
Weighted vests put a large strain on your muscles, cartilage, and the rest of your body.
There are plenty of health concerns, which we’ll cover in a moment. Suffice it to say for now that running with a weighted vest on is not recommended.
Let’s first take a look at the benefits. The additional resistance, much like in strength training, will help you achieve better cardiovascular power. It also boosts muscle toning and it can make you faster at running once you take the vest off after your training is done.
But it also brings with it increased stress. These vests cause unnecessary stress damage to your entire body.
It’s like adding ten to twenty pounds of body fat to your frame and then assuming that running is healthier now than it was before. It doesn’t work.
The benefits of weighted vests are best realized in resistance/strength training. In this type of training, you are already very focused on your posture, making sure it is correct.
When running, it is too easy to lose your posture for a second. And then the added weight could be disastrous. The same goes for other activities where you might slip out of using the correct posture, like walking with a vest on.
Even an athletic, fit person with plenty of muscle mass, a healthy weight, and a low body fat content should avoid using weighted vests for running at the risk of degrading their body faster. There are simply too many potential health concerns.
Weighted vests are beneficial for resistance training, but not for cardiovascular workouts. That is to say, they do still have benefits, but they are outweighed by the risks. These are the main health concerns with weighted vest running.
Extra Physical Stress
The less stress that you put on your body, the better. This is true for your entire body, from your cardiovascular system, to your pulmonary system, to your muscles, your organs, your bones and more.
Yes, during exercise, you’re using short intervals of stress to train our body in a positive way. But that’s with your own body weight. Your body is designed to handle that. The extra weight from a vest is too much. One mistake and that stress can lead to serious injury.
Your joints undergo a lot of force and stress from gravity and your body weight as it is. Even inversion therapy cannot “fix” the joints in your knees and ankles, if you screw them up by putting too much stress on them.
But it’s not only those joints. A weight vest can also negatively impact the joints in your shoulders and arms. It’s just far too easy to injure yourself when wearing a weighted vest.
Some people also consider running with ankle weights. This is not a good idea either. For most of us, it is best to just run unencumbered.
When your muscle tears, it’s one of two things. Either the muscle itself has a laceration in it that separates the muscle fibers, or the flesh of your muscles are torn from the surface of your bones.
Either way, it’s bad news. The increased weight of the vest puts extra tension on your muscles. When combined with the physical stress and movements of running, it’s a recipe for disaster.
Akin to the fear of joint damage, the cartilage in your body isn’t regenerative. It can repair itself slightly, but if you grind it down, it’s gone.
Weighted vests can add anywhere from 30 to 150 pounds of additional stress on your joints, depending on how heavy the vest is and how well (or how poorly) the weight is distributed and the vest is affixed to your body.
Running With A Weighted Vest: Final Thoughts
Running with a weight vest is not generally a good idea. Sure, it does have benefits, but the risks are simply too great for most of us.
If you aren’t careful, the added weight can worsen existing injuries or create new ones. It puts a lot of additional stress on your joints and even a small loss of balance or form while running can turn disastrous.
But this does not mean you shouldn’t use a weight vest at all. They are great for strength workouts. The key is to buy a quality weight vest that fits well and has an even weight distribution.
And women should buy the best weighted vest for women. These are specifically designed for their unique body shape and center of gravity.