Are Weighted Vests Good for Osteoporosis?

Updated: October 12, 2022

watching sunset

You’ve probably heard that weight-bearing exercise helps build strong bones. And if wearing a weighted vest during exercise will help “speed up” the process it seems like a no-brainer…

But are weighted vests safe and effective for those with osteoporosis? 

Today I’m sharing what the research says, along with a few tips, so you can make an informed choice on whether you should use one or not. 

So, let’s dive into it together!

What Effect Do Weighted Vests Have on Bones?

As you may know, weight-bearing exercises strengthen your bones more than non-weight-bearing exercises.

When you perform weight-bearing exercises such as dancing or running, your feet and legs support your body weight against gravity. As you exercise, your muscles pull on your bones, increasing the load placed on them, and ultimately strengthening them.

So, in theory, adding more weight to your workout routine should help improve your bone health. And that’s the idea behind using a weighted vest. 

It adds additional weight to increase the load your bones and the rest of your body support. And in doing so, it increases the benefits of exercises you may already be doing such as walking or jogging.

Lady stretching

Plus, weighted vests give you action hero vibes — which your grandkids will love.

Now, weighted vests come in a variety of styles. Most feature a design that goes over your shoulders and extends to the waist, with small pockets that provide space for individual weights. These weights can be removed or added to easily adjust the load.

What Does the Research Say About Weighted Vests?

A small 22-week study involving 37 obese adults who were placed on a calorie-restricted diet showed promising results. One group wore a weighted vest during their day-to-day in addition to changing their diet, and the other group changed only their diet.

Following the study, a DEXA scan measured each participant’s BMD at the total hip, femoral neck, and lumbar spine.

Researchers found that using a weighted vest reduced the loss of hip BMD by 0.013 g/cm2. And increased bone formation in older adults with obesity. 

This is promising news that may signal long-term clinical significance. But considering the small sample sizes of this study, the findings warrant replication from a larger trial.

Another benefit of using a weighted vest for osteoporosis is that it helps improve balance. In a randomized control trial, researchers monitored the balance of 36 postmenopausal women with osteoporosis. 

Participants were divided into three groups: aerobic, weighted vest, or control. After six weeks of exercise, results showed the control group’s balance score went down by 28.96%. 

But the aerobic group boosted their balance score by 49.68%. And get this, the weighted vest group saw a whopping 104.66% increase!  

Clearly, the weighted vest group had the best results. This is important because research shows that balance impairment increases the risk of falling in older adults. 

Although the sample size was small, the results were so large this study is likely solid.. It suggests that using a weighted vest while exercising can significantly improve balance and mobility and reduce the risk of falls that can lead to fractures. So it’s a good first sign that more research should be conducted.

Now, after hearing all of this, it’s easy to think, “Wow, great, sign me up! This sounds like the perfect way for me to improve my bone health!” 

But like anything, there are some caveats.

Lady drinking water

Is it Safe to Wear a Weighted Vest?

A weighted vest can be a great addition to an established exercise routine. 

But it shouldn’t be worn if you already suffer from knee or back pain. Wearing a weighted vest can increase the load on those areas and make the problem worse. Also, consider your posture. 

As we age, the column of bones (vertebrae) in the spine can weaken due to bone loss. Plus, vertebrae are the most commonly fractured bones among older people with osteoporosis. 

So, if your shoulders are rounded and the curve in your upper back is a little more pronounced, hold off on using a weighted vest. First improve your posture, then re-visit adding a weighted vest later. 

How to Properly Use a Weighted Vest for Osteoporosis

First, you want to choose a design and fit that can be easily adjusted. It should offer a snug fit, but not be so tight as to impact your ability to move and breathe. 

When you find the right weighted vest, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind.

Remember, it’s very important to start small. Gradually increase the weight of the vest as well as the time you wear it. Your body will adapt, but it needs time.

It’s best to start with one pound for a week. Then go up to two pounds the following week. And continue to gradually increase a pound per week. 

But don’t exceed 15% of your body weight.

If the weight begins to cause pain anywhere in your body, stop immediately and consult your doctor.

Although the risk of adverse effects is low, you should still exercise caution.

Weighted Vest Takeaways

If worn appropriately, a weighted vest can increase strength, power, and reduce factors that increase the risks of falling. 

Plus, it can help improve your bone density by slowing bone loss. 

And remember, you should always consult your healthcare provider before you add any new exercises or equipment to your regimen.

Let me know what you think about using a weighted vest for osteoporosis in the comments below. And if you’re looking for more exercises to improve your bone health, click here.

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  1. Janet

    December 13, 2021 , 8:33 am

    I often wear a hydration pack for hikes. What kind of exercises were performed by the groups in the trials ?

  2. Kirby Johnson

    December 13, 2021 , 2:05 pm

    Hi Janet,

    Good question! While participants in one of the studies wore a weighted vest throughout their day, participants in another study wore a weighted vest while walking on the treadmill for 30 minutes (3x a week). Keep up all the fantastic work on your hikes! You can continue to support your bone health through a combination of nutrition, exercise, and adequate supplementation; we explore many of these topics in other areas of our BLOG. Please let us know if you have any further questions!

    – Kirby @ AlgaeCal

  3. Ellen

    December 13, 2021 , 2:51 pm

    Do you any further guidelines? How long does it need to be worn to benefit bones?

  4. Kirby Johnson

    December 15, 2021 , 3:15 pm

    Hi Ellen,

    Thanks for your interest! The studies detailed in the article above were conducted over 6 and 22 weeks. You’d likely benefit from exercising with a weighted vest for a similar time frame and intermittently afterwards. Rebuilding bone often takes time and dedication over a period of many months while merely maintaining bone health requires constant care and attention. We don’t recommend wearing excessive weight for extended periods of time. For any further information and guidelines, we’d recommend discussing weighted vests with your doctor or physical therapist to determine the best approach for your circumstances.

    Kirby @ AlgaeCal

  5. Dee

    December 13, 2021 , 3:53 pm

    Are these vests appropriate for individuals with osteopenia of the lower lumbar? ( L1-L4?)

  6. Kirby Johnson

    December 15, 2021 , 3:03 pm

    Hi Dee,

    Thanks so much for your question. While we can’t provide specific recommendations, we hope you’re able to discuss weighted vests with your physical therapist to determine if they’re appropriate for your circumstances. You might also be interested in our article detailing exercises for those who have osteoporosis of the spine. You can find that HERE. Please don’t hesitate to let us know if you have further questions!

    Kirby @ AlgaeCal

  7. Elizabeth M

    December 13, 2021 , 7:45 pm

    I have had osteoporosis for a few years, with fractures of my spine, which has resulted in a curved posture. I tried taking a bone medication but it gave me a permanent headache; then I tried another that I had to take every 6 months. That gave me a pain in my jaw, so I discontinued it. I am interested to know more about physical therapy and exercises I can do at home to help my posture. I am quite active. I walk a lot, I dance, and I work in the garden. Are there any exercises or anything else I can do to try and improve my posture. I used to be quite tall, with a long torso, and I think that didn’t help.

  8. Kirby Johnson

    December 15, 2021 , 3:24 pm

    Elizabeth,

    We’re so sorry to hear of your fractures and bone density loss; thanks for reaching out with your inquiry. It sounds like you’re very active! Keep that up! You can find an excellent resource for posture exercises HERE. Let us know what you think!

    Kirby @ AlgaeCal

  9. Janet

    December 13, 2021 , 9:35 pm

    My backpack blower, to clear the half mile drive through the woodland forest up to home takes over 6 hours, clears the culverts, packing my bones while doing a real job, as did many state park maintenance jobs during my career, now same satisfaction at home.?

  10. Kirby Johnson

    December 15, 2021 , 2:12 pm

    Hi Janet,

    Thanks so much for sharing! And we agree, getting to do some work for yourself just brings an entirely new level of satisfaction 🙂 Sounds like you’re doing plenty to stay active!

    Kirby @ AlgaeCal

  11. Karen

    December 14, 2021 , 10:41 am

    Can you recommend any brands of weighted vests? I had one that I gave away because the initial weight was too heavy. I also have degenerative disk disease so am not sure this is a good choice for me. Thanks

  12. Kirby Johnson

    December 15, 2021 , 3:45 pm

    Hi Karen,

    Thanks so much for sharing more about your circumstances. We definitely recommend discussing weighted vests with your doctor or physical therapist to determine whether it’s a good choice for you. In the meantime, you can find a great breakdown of some vests that might work HERE. Many of the options discussed have small plates that offer flexibility for slowly adding weight. Hope this helps!

    Kirby @ AlgaeCal

  13. Elena Trujillo

    December 14, 2021 , 11:08 am

    I’m tempted to try this vests idea but I’m iffy about my achy shoulders and back; and don’t know how is it going to affect my badly achy hip if just normal walking make me fall down with the pain on my hip that makes me loos strength on my legs.

  14. Margie Murr

    December 14, 2021 , 12:08 pm

    I am interested in trying a light weighted vest as you recommend, but am unable to find anything with weights small enough to start out at 1# or 2# etc. I checked Amazon and other sites, but nothing that small. Do you have a source for this?

  15. Kirby Johnson

    December 15, 2021 , 3:40 pm

    Hi Maggie,

    Wonderful to hear that you’re interested in trying out a weighted vest. Trying to navigate through all your options online is intimidating! We found THIS resource tremendously helpful in finding the best vest. Let us know what you think!

    Kirby @ AlgaeCal

  16. Diana Bezold

    December 14, 2021 , 9:11 pm

    Any insights on hand held weights while walking?

  17. Megan AlgaeCal

    December 21, 2021 , 10:18 am

    Hi Diana!

    We checked in with our in-house physical therapist, Dr. Emma Gasinski. Here’s what she had to share: “Holding hand held weights is a fine thing you can do but better than that is a weighted vest because this places weight and load through the legs and hips instead of just the arms. The benefit of holding on to weights is that you increase your grip strength, but to make an impact on your bones, the weight needs to be pretty heavy.”

    Hope this helps!

    – Megan @ AlgaeCal

  18. Lois F Kerr

    December 15, 2021 , 2:30 pm

    If I start with 1 pound a week, can I wear the vest for a 40 minute walk? How long should I wear the vest each day starting out?

  19. Kirby Johnson

    December 15, 2021 , 3:56 pm

    Lois,

    Thanks for your question! We think this is a great way to ease into wearing a weighted vest! Those in the second study discussed wore weighted vests for a period of 30 minutes 3 times a week while exercising. Those in the first study wore a weighted vest for approximately 6 hours a day during regular daily activities. It’s best to discuss your plans with your doctor or physical therapist. Be sure to listen to your body and ease off if necessary; it’s always best to work slowly into a new routine with new equipment. If you have any additional questions, please be sure to let us know!

    Kirby @ AlgaeCal

  20. Lucy Mauterer

    December 16, 2021 , 6:59 am

    I have had rheumatoid arthritis for ten years. Due to a doctor early on prescribing prednisone, I have osteoporosis, and suffered a tibia break three years ago that required surgery. Now I have a real rheumatologist and take hcq and Methotrexate to reduce the inflammation. And manage pain. I have difficulty walking. I tend not to do much because I am avoiding the pain. I have been taking algae cal for almost a year. Cannot get a dexa scan until I have someone to help me get to the imaging place in my wheelchair. I wish I could wear a weighted vest to help with exercise. I can barely bend my knees. My rheumatologist wagged her finger at me and said that next time it would be a broken hip. I took offense at that. There should be some way to help me improve my strength and bone density.

  21. Kirby Johnson

    December 16, 2021 , 3:51 pm

    Lucy,

    Thank you so much for sharing more about your circumstances. You are already doing tremendous work naturally increasing your bone mineral density by taking AlgaeCal supplements! And even if you’re restricted to your wheelchair, there are many exercises you can do to improve your overall strength. Please be sure to share these suggestions with your rheumatologist to determine if they’re appropriate for you, but you can find great exercises HERE and HERE. Please let us know if we can provide any additional support!

    – Kirby @ AlgaeCal

  22. Denise Mizer

    January 16, 2022 , 8:48 am

    Is there a benefit to wearing ankle weights while walking briskly? I have bone loss in one of my hips which I am trying to remedy.

  23. Kirby Johnson

    January 18, 2022 , 8:34 am

    Denise,

    Thank you so much for your question. Ankle weights are a great way to add resistance while walking and serve as another tool to add to your repertoire of bone-healthy activities. An important note while using ankle weights is to ensure you’re adding weight gradually and progressively. This includes both the amount of weight as well as the amount of time you are wearing the weight. You should also be maintaining your natural gait without adjusting your movement to compensate for additional weight. Adding too much weight too quickly can increase your risk of injury or fracture. Similar to a weighted vest, you should start low – about 0.5# or 1# and slowly increase the weight over time. Ankle weights are also fun to add to other exercises as well such as stair climbs, seated knee extensions, standing marches, etc. Most importantly, be sure to discuss the possibility of wearing ankle weights with your health care practitioner to determine if they’re appropriate for your circumstances. Hope this info helps!

    – Kirby @ AlgaeCal

  24. Sharon Miller

    May 10, 2022 , 3:16 pm

    Interesting. I’ve never thought about a weighted vest. I use ankle weights and carry weights when I walk.

  25. Sylvia Durance

    May 12, 2022 , 12:42 pm

    I have worked up to 10 pounds in my weighted vest over the past 8 months. I know my back and shoulders feel stronger for using it on my walks.

  26. Linella Raff

    May 13, 2022 , 6:44 pm

    I had never heard of wearing a weighted vest. This is valuable information that I can l consider moving forward.

  27. Julie Arneson

    May 15, 2022 , 4:52 am

    I hike with a backpack sometimes, can I just wear my backpack with water and or extra added weight on my daily walks instead of a weighted vest?

  28. Sondra “Sunny” Burwick

    May 15, 2022 , 10:26 am

    Thank you for this information. I’ve been considering a weighted vest for some time. This will help in my decision of which one to buy. I have a lung condition, bronchiectasis, and have a vibrating vest that weighs just under 10#. I’ve worn it while doing housework sometimes, but based on your article, I’ll wear it more often. it was odd that they did the research on obese women, as I understand the extra weight they carry helps keep their bones stronger.

  29. Debbie

    May 16, 2022 , 3:06 pm

    Going to hold off on the weighted vest until I get my strength and balance back in my legs. I think my posture is still good as even the osteoporosis doctor didn’t comment on it when she measured my mobility. My T score for my spine is my highest -3.3, Rt hip -2.8 and neck -2.4. She recommended that I stop Strontium boost. Gave a reason that didn’t make sense. She said it makes your bones shiny and you don’t get a proper reading??? I started to take just one but am going back to two when I start my new order.

  30. Kirby Johnson

    May 20, 2022 , 2:52 pm

    Debbie,

    Thank you so much for sharing more about your circumstances – we hope you’ll feel up to implementing a weighted vest soon! While there is evidence strontium can overestimate bone density increases, it only accounts for approximately 8-11% of any reported increase and strontium will never report a false positive on DEXA reports. When we review DEXA scans with our customers we always take this into consideration in order to be transparent as possible. We have a very informative article discussing accurate calculations HERE.

    We hope this information gives you peace of mind, Debbie. If you have more questions, please don’t hesitate to let us know because we’re always happy to help! Feel free to reach out to us for any bone-health questions online or over the phone at 1-800-820-0184 (USA & Canada toll-free) 😁

    – Kirby @ AlgaeCal

  31. Naila. Durrani

    May 19, 2022 , 7:21 am

    The explanation on weighted vests was very useful indeed and clarified whether they help or not plus to wear them only after correcting posture.

    The bone breathing exercises are very well explained and will add further to the breathing exercises I already do as part of my yoga routines.

  32. Jeannie Spillane

    May 26, 2022 , 12:35 pm

    Who knew weighted vests could help bone loss?! Thanks for this article – very informative!

  33. Lena

    August 19, 2022 , 4:01 pm

    Hi, I will be 70 in November, and have Fibromyalgia. I teach Aqua Arthritis class on Mondays, walk the dog, and etc. I also have Osteopenia for about 6 years. Very interested in the weighted vest to increase
    Bone mass. Any type or design you would suggest. Thank You

  34. Kirby Johnson

    August 22, 2022 , 12:25 pm

    Lena,

    It’s wonderful to hear how active you are! Before finding the perfect vest for you, we definitely recommend discussing the topic further with your doctor or physical therapist. You can find a great breakdown of some vests that might work for you HERE. Many of the options discussed have small plates that offer flexibility for slowly adding weight.

    Based your comment, we also wanted to take the oppoortunity to share a detailed blog article we wrote about fibromyalgia and bone health. If you have any interest, you can find it HERE <3 Hope this information helps!

    Kirby @ AlgaeCal

  35. Violet

    September 10, 2022 , 11:31 pm

    I am 70. My name is Violet. I have had 1 compression vertebrae, and about 2 broken ones . Right now my rib where connects to my back is broke. I read where a woman with osteoporosis wore a vest each day to walk her dogs for 20 minutes. She also changed her diet to all meat with organ meats so she would get all vitamins and minerals. She also ate eggs, butter and cheese I think. She REVERSED her osteoporosis. I am studying now to try improve my health and do the same. Do y’all have any one that has commented on this? I love all outdoors camping, boating, fishing, family get together…. I am open to anything to help me enjoy my life again😊🙏💕

  36. Chelsea Dugas

    September 13, 2022 , 1:41 pm

    Thank you for reaching out, Violet.

    So sorry to hear about your recent fractures. Perhaps our Bone Fracture Healing Guide can be of help. As for eating an all-meat diet, that is a personal preference that for some may work but for others may not. Up to you to see how your body responds to it if you decide to go that route. Kudos to you for jumping in head first in trying to find solutions to improve your health! Please feel free to peruse our blog further, and know that you can call our friendly Bone Health Consultants 7 days a week at 1-800-820-0184 (USA & Canada, toll-free) or email [email protected] for more information and personalized support. Hope this helps!

    – Chelsea @ AlgaeCal

  37. Violet

    September 10, 2022 , 11:53 pm

    What do you think about vibrating machine for ostiporosis?

  38. Chelsea Dugas

    September 13, 2022 , 1:43 pm

    Hi again, Violet!

    We actually have a full article on vibration machines that you can access HERE if you like. Hope this helps!

    Chelsea @ AlgaeCal

This article features advice from our industry experts to give you the best possible info through cutting-edge research.

Prof. Didier Hans
PHD, MBA - Head of Research & Development Center of Bone Diseases, Lausanne University Hospital CHUV, Switzerland,
Lara Pizzorno
MDiv, MA, LMT - Best-selling author of Healthy Bones Healthy You! and Your Bones; Editor of Longevity Medicine Review, and Senior Medical Editor for Integrative Medicine Advisors.,
Dr. Liz Lipski
PhD, CNS, FACN, IFMP, BCHN, LDN - Professor and Director of Academic Development, Nutrition programs in Clinical Nutrition at Maryland University of Integrative Health.,
Dr. Loren Fishman
MD, B.Phil.,(oxon.) - Medical Director of Manhattan Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation and Founder of the Yoga Injury Prevention Website.,
Dr. Carole McArthur
MD, PhD - Professor of Immunology, Univ. of Missouri-Kansas City; Director of Residency Research in Pathology, Truman Medical Center.,