Osteoporosis is a disease of the skeletal system of the body. It occurs when the body produces too little new bone tissue or wears out old bone tissue too quickly. When either, or both happen, bones of the body become brittle and highly susceptible to fractures, even from minor forms of trauma.
Osteoporosis may affect people of any age, sex, or race. However, post-menopausal white and Asian women are at the highest risk of developing this disease[i]. In the USA, while only 4.2% of men over the age of 50 suffer from osteoporosis of the femur neck or lumbar spine, a whopping 18.8% of women in the same age bracket have the disease[ii].
The disease may present itself with various symptoms. However, the most common ones include back pain, stooped posture, and frequent fractures.
Treatment for osteoporosis includes consuming oral and injectable medicines to strengthen the skeletal system and eating a nutritious diet rich in Calcium and Vitamin-D. Another recommended practice for people affected with osteoporosis is performing weight-bearing exercises regularly.
Training with weights helps load the bones and spur the body into generating new bone tissue. One of the easiest means of performing weight training is with the use of a weighted vest. A weighted vest is like a piece of garment, with inbuilt pockets which can carry weights.
This garment can be worn over a layer of clothing when you are exercising. Imagine the trouble of having to hold two dumbbells while you do push-ups or jumping jacks? Wearing weighted vests would leave your hands free and make for more convenient workouts.
Weighted vests have a range of benefits. From helping build strength and endurance to helping alleviate the symptoms of ADHD and autism, weighted vests help people of all ages and physical conditions, including kids, women, and senior citizens. Weighted vests can help people with osteoporosis too.
Benefits of using Weighted Vests for Osteoporosis
#1 Prevention of Bone Loss in the Long Run
Your bones are constantly getting regenerated throughout your life. As old bone tissue breaks down, newer tissue is formed to compensate. When you are young, the rate of replenishment of bone tissue keeps up the rate of degeneration.
However, as you grow old, your body is no longer able to keep up with the rate of bone tissue loss. Bone Mineral Density (BMT) is a primary measurement of the health & fragility of your bones. If the BMT drops too much, your bones, especially those of the pelvis, neck, and legs may break even with the slightest stress.
#2 Improvement of Balance
Have you observed that older people tend to fall more often than younger people? With advancing age, the body’s ability to maintain balance decreases, leading to a higher probability of mishap. In people with osteoporosis, this loss of balance may prove to be a very big problem, as their bones are already brittle.
Regular use of weighted vests can help such people maintain balance. A research was conducted where post-menopausal women spent 30 mins walking 3 days a week, with a weighted vest.
It was observed that such women performed much better in balance-determination exercises like Near Tandem Stand (NTS) and Star-Excursion (SE) than women who spent the same time walking without weighted vests[iv]
#3 Strengthening Your Leg Muscles
Have you ever realized what vital role your leg muscles play in your day-to-day life? Leg muscles help us stand, walk, run, and climb. Without enough strength in the leg muscles, it may even become very difficult for us to get up from a chair.
The impairment of leg muscles could result in serious mobility issues. It is therefore very important for everyone to keep their leg muscles strong. Studies have shown that systematic use of weighted vests in women who were 70 years or older, resulted in enhanced leg power and chair rise.[v]
Despite all the benefits mentioned above, the use of weighted vests by people suffering from osteoporosis carries some risks. If not used properly, it may lead to further complications and immobility.
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Potential Problems With Using Weighted Vests for Osteoporosis
#1 Risks of Poor Selection and Adaptation of Vests
There are several kinds of weighted vests available in the market. It is very important for users to pick and choose the appropriate weighted vest for osteoporosis that suits their body and their workout type.
Some of the basics checks that must be performed before buying a weighted vest are the material, the fit, and the weight distribution. The vest should be made of a material that is comfortable to wear. It must also fit tightly around the torso, and not hang loosely.
The weights inside the vest must be evenly distributed across the weighted vest, must remain in place for the duration of the workout, and not wobble.
#2 Risk of Fractures in Case of Overuse or Improper Use
As a thumb rule, a weighted vest must not be loaded to more than 10-15% of body weight even for a healthy person. Working out with anything more can cause debilitating and long-term damage, if not done under strict supervision.
Since osteoporosis patients already have a weak skeletal system, even a minor overload can cause fractures. Hence, it is very important for them to consult a medical practitioner before deciding to use a weighted vest.
Also, weighted vests must be worn only for fixed periods of time. Any attempts to keep them on for extended durations may result in complications.
#3 Performing Only Certain Kind of Exercises
You may come across instances of people using a weighted vest for CrossFit, running, or hiking. You may also see them carry very heavy weights, usually over 100 pounds. These are dangerous even for very healthy people.
For those with osteoporosis, it is important to only perform moderate-intensity exercises while wearing the weighted vest, like walking or squatting. Your healthcare professional is the right person to advise you on what activities you may perform with weighted vests, and it is wise to stick to that.
While we make every effort to provide updated and correct information, the advice given in this article and website should not be construed as “medical advice.” Please consult with your physician or medical practitioner before using any weighted vest for osteoporosis. Everyone may have his or her unique issues, and your medical practitioner is the best person to decide the best-weighted vest for CrossFit in your case.