Running has plenty of perks -- it helps you burn calories and build muscle, and it releases endorphins that make you feel happier. Strapping on a weighted vest for your run might not put a smile on your face, but it'll give more potency to the workout, which is ideal if you're short on time. The vest can feel bulky and take a period of adjustment, but it will help you meet your fitness goals.
While it may look like it can, a weighted vest won't stop a bullet. What it will do is increase the intensity of your workout by adding more resistance. Because your body mass will essentially be greater, your legs, core and arms will have to work harder to run. Weighted vests up to 50 pounds are commonly available. Some vests have removable weight packs so you can fine-tune the weight to fit your body type.
You can wear weighted vests as a training tool to help you burn more calories during your run, and thus lose more weight. Standard running burns ample calories; moderate running for an hour will burn nearly 500 calories for a 130-pound person. When you add a weighted vest to your run, your body works even harder to propel you along, which results in more calories burned in the same amount of time.
Elite athletes often wear weighted vests during running and other exercises as a way to help them build muscle. If you're already toned, you're probably not worrying about burning calories, but a weighted vest will increase the resistance your body faces, which works the muscles harder than usual. The amount of additional muscle you'll build while wearing a vest depends on your body type and the intensity of your run.
Doctors often tell people with joint pain to lose weight to help alleviate the pressure on their joints. The same philosophy is true for people who wear weighted vests. If you find that your ankles, knees and hips hurt while running with one, either reduce the weight or remove the vest altogether. Because weighted vests can be bulky, be cautious about wearing one in high temperatures, and always remember to hydrate properly, as the added weight can increase the amount you sweat. When choosing a weight, pick a heavier weight for sprints and a lighter weight for jogging.
Toronto-based journalist William McCoy has been writing since 1997, specializing in topics such as sports, nutrition and health. He serves as the Studio's sports and recreation section expert. McCoy is a journalism graduate of Ryerson University.