Weight Vests for Walking Workouts

Pros, cons, and alternatives to boost calorie burn and speed

Wearing a Weight Vest
Wearing a Weight Vest. Patrik Giardino/DigitalVision/Getty Images

You may see a suggestion that you wear a weighted walking vest for your workouts. Is this a good idea for most people? Given that weight vests are often expensive, learn the pros and cons of adding this to your walking workout gear.

Weight Vests Are Not for Everyone

Of all of the weights suggested for walkers, a weighted vest is probably the least likely to cause injury. The extra weight is carried where the body naturally adds on extra weight—the torso, at the center of mass.

You don't have the risk of repetitive motion injury and unnatural stress on the feet, arms or ankles you do with ankle weights or hand weights.

If you have any problems with your knees, ankles, feet, hips, it is better to weigh less when you walk, as each pound adds more stress to those joints. A weighted vest would not be recommended for you. If you have no aches or pains, a weighted vest might be used, but there are better (or more useful) ways of achieving the same goals.

Burning More Calories With a Weight Vest

The more you weigh, the more calories you burn per mile. This is true, but the difference is small for any amount of weight you could comfortably add to your body. Rather than add weight to your body, you only need to walk an extra minute to achieve the same effect.​

You might carry backpack or hydration backpack on your walks that has the same weight as a weighted vest. Water weighs one pound for each pint, so a quart or liter of water is a couple of pounds.

Add the weight of the pack and other essentials and you have easily added 5 pounds or more. In this case, you don't wear it specifically to burn more calories but to have your water and essentials handy.

However, a backpack has disadvantages. The straps may be uncomfortable, and all of the weight is on your back unless the pack has a chest strap and belly strap to evenly distribute the weight to your hips rather than your shoulders.

A weighted vest is designed to distribute the weight evenly and some people may find it more comfortable than a backpack.

Speed Training With a Weight Vest

A weighted vest is used in many sports for speed training. If you train with the vest, then compete without it, you should go faster. If you have already trained fully for speed and distance and achieved the best results you can, then this may be a way to get further increases in speed. But if you still have basic training to do for speed and distance, concentrate on that without adding weight.

What to Look for in a Weighted Walking Vest

If you are still convinced this is the item for you, then be sure to try before you buy.  Here are tips for what to look for:

  • The vest should fit well, not too tight and not loose.
  • You don't want the weights to be swinging freely, adding strange side motions to your walking form.
  • The weights should be evenly distributed around your torso.
  • Look for a design in mesh or a sweat-wicking fabric with good air flow-through so you won't get sweaty and miserable.
  • You should be able to easily add or subtract weights.
  • The design should still work well with whatever kind of water carrier you use if you are going to use it for walks of over 30 minutes.

A Word From Verywell

For most fitness walkers, there is little value in buying an expensive weighted vest. You can save your money and walk an extra minute or two to gain the same calorie burn, or to improve your walking form so you are walking faster and packing more miles into the same time. These result in burning more total calories.

If you have had a weight vest recommended to by a physical therapist or a personal trainer, ask them for recommendations and how you should use one to get the best benefits.

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