If you are anything like me, you are always looking to burn as many calories as possible in the shortest amount of time. I really enjoy taking walks with the dogs. In super-hot weather like we’ve been having there is just no way for me to run on my lunch hour for any amount of time and get cleaned up enough to be presentable the rest of the day, so I find myself doing power walks at lunch instead.
And walking is SO good for you! You get to burn calories without the impact stress of running, it strengthens your hips and glutes, which is especially needed for people who work a desk job, and is great for your heart. In addition, studies have shown that it reduces stress and helps people work on internal issues almost as well as mediating.
The only problem for me, is that even a fast walk doesn’t burn the calories that I would like to. So I started researching ways to increase the benefit of a walk. They used to sell weighted hand and ankle weights for walking. However, research started showing that walking with these weights - especially ankle weights - was causing joint damage. So most experts don’t recommend walking with them. I have carried 5 LB dumbbells with me for a walk, but they are cumbersome and place a lot of stress on the arms, which is not where I want to focus.
Taking a cue from the military, “rucking” has come into fashion. Using a large backpack filled up has a ton of physical benefits. But I didn’t see myself hauling a backpack to work and throwing it on to walk at lunch.
And then I found a weighted vest. I started researching and discovered that weighted vests provide extreme benefits in multiple areas. I put one on my Amazon “wish list” and was thrilled when Marc got it for me for Xmas last year.
I have been using it to power walk, and what a great workout it is! Mine is a 12 lb. vest but you can get lighter or heavier versions. First off, wearing the weighted vest to walk strengthens your core. This vest, as you can see, straps on similar to a backpack. It sits right between your shoulder blades. Wearing the weight there, forces you to hold your body straight. While the vest does not move around at all, your body still needs to compensate for the weight there and uses core muscles to accomplish this. This not only strengthens your core, but improves your posture - something I need desperately. I have always had bad posture, but the skin removal surgery made me hunched for a while until the skin stretched, and my posture remains a challenge.
In addition, having the weighted vest on strengthens your shoulder muscles and leg muscles as there is simply more weight to propel forward when you walk. It also increases the cardio benefits of a walk, because having more weight to haul around is harder work.
If you are a runner, studies have shown that those runners who wear weighted vest while walking run faster without that weight on them. Your body apparently gets used to carrying the extra weight and once it is off, you are freed up and run faster. Some people use vest when they do sprints, but I wouldn’t advocate that for us mere mortals. That is for very strong and very advanced runners.
Here what I also love about the weighted vest. It’s not just for walking. I wear it to add some difficulty to other exercises. For example, I wear it doing P90X Kempo, which increases the cardio and strength benefits. Try doing a few push ups or planks or squats in that sucker - you will know it!!
And guess what? It doesn’t have to just be for advanced exercising. Wearing a weighted vest while doing simple household chores will increase our calorie burn. You can wear it while vacuuming, dusting or anything else that you are doing where you are looking to make it a little more challenging.
Some cautions – you want to start with a lower weight depending on your fitness level. You can buy adjustable vests where you can add or remove weights, but of course they cost more.
If you have back or neck problems, this might not be something that you want to invest in, because it does put quite a load on your back.
If your not sure the weight or if it will aggravate any issues, try on a backpack first and see what weight feels right.
But if you are looking to add a little challenge to your walk, this might fit the bill as it does for me!