Can You Wear A Weighted Vest All Day? (Pros and cons)


Last month my wife bought me a weighted vest as my birthday gift and I decided to make an experiment where I’d be wearing it all day for as long as possible. Today I will share with you my results and most importantly, explain should you wear a weighted vest all day or not.

In general, wearing a weighted vest all day is not recommended because it will likely cause muscle fatigue in the upper body and make you feel exhausted. Instead, you should wear a weighted vest intermittently throughout the day during walking, cardio, or bodyweight exercises, and it has to be done with caution.

Here you have my general answer. Needless to say, this experiment didn’t end up as I planned, but if you wanna know more details about the benefits of wearing a weighted vest all day, keep reading.

Why I wore a weighted vest all day for a month?

I started to wear a weighted vest for the whole day becasue I was inspired by the results from Eric Lee Salazar, the IFBB Pro who managed to lose 19 lbs during his contest prep, without being in an extreme calories deficit.

Instead of cutting his calories down to the bone, Eric managed to keep his calorie intake at around the maintenance level, shred excess weight, and win the bodybuilding show.

Now, I’m not gonna compete in a bodybuilding contest anytime soon. But the idea of wearing a weighted vest all day for a number of weeks to shred a few extra pounds was tempting.

Another reason why I was inspired to experiment with wearing a weighted vest for a month is that I’m a huge fan of hypergravity training, which is mainly used by astronauts to countermeasure the microgravity effects.

Microgravity is a condition of very low gravity that astronauts experience during space flight. Feeling of weightlessness for a prolonged period of time leads to loss of muscle mass and bone density.

According to Gregory R. Adams, Ph.D., a professor from the Michigan State University, short-duration spaceflights have been shown to produce 5–15% losses in muscle mass and a 10–20% reduction in muscle strength (Adams et al. 2003).

One of the methods to simulate hypergravity training is to wear a weighted vest at all times during the day for an extended period of time.

Related article: Why You Should Do Squats With Weighted Vest

How effective is it to wear a weighted vest all day?

As a whole, wearing a weighted vest all day can be an effective training tool to improve strength and cardiovascular fitness in a short period of time. However, studies on elite athletes have shown that there are positive, negative, and nonresponders to this type of training.

According to the research published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning by Matthew J. Barr, Ph.D. on professional Rugby players who wore the weighted vest for the whole day for 8 days, all participants had vastly different results.

See the graph below.

Efficacy of wearing the weighted vest all day
  • Four out of eight players had negative results in their sprinting time.
  • Two out of eight athletes had neutral results (no improvements but also no negative effects on performance).
  • Two athletes achieved personal best sprinting times.

According to Dr. Barr, the experiment was done in between the IRB Sevens Series tournaments, which could explain the differentiation in results.

You need to keep in mind that all players from the previously mentioned study had extensive strength training backgrounds. This brings me to the next question.

Does wearing a weighted vest all day help to improve strength, cardiovascular performance and body composition for recreationally active people?

Case study: Does wearing a weighted vest all day help?

Lucas from pigmie posted a video of himself wearing a weighted vest all day for 7 days. You can see that this man, while not a bodybuilder, has a great strength baseline with good definition and plenty of muscle mass.

The goal of this experiment was to see if wearing a weighted vest all day makes you stronger. He measured his strength and speed before and after the experiment by doing push-ups, pull-ups, and 1-mile run.

See the table below.

ExerciseBeforeAfter
Push-ups5568
Pull-ups1420
1-mile run6 min 58 sec6 min 13 sec
Wearing a weighted vest all day before and after

As you can see, the Lucas case study results have shown that he was able to do 13 more push-ups, and 6 more pull-ups and run 45 seconds faster than before the experiment.

Related article: Best Weighted Vest Treadmill Workouts

Is it safe to wear a weighted vest all day?

Obviously, before I started my experiment, apart from reading anecdotal stories and watching case studies on YouTube, I spend several days researching publications on weighted clothing and the safety of hypergravity training.

One thing that will determine how safe is it to wear a vest all the time is the actual weight of the vest.

Overall, it is safe to wear a weighted vest all day, as long as the weight of the vest is not excessive. Most of the studies that document simulation of the hypergravity training use weighted clothing equating to 5-12% body mass.

Wearing heavier vests can lead to unwanted side effects like muscle soreness and overall fatigue. Carrying additional weight puts a lot of pressure not only on the leg muscles but also on the abdominal stabilizer muscles like transversus abdominis, multifidus, and internal and external obliques.

On the other hand, wearing a weighted vest that is too light may lead to poor results.

Gail A. Greendale MD, Professor of Medicine from California, said that wearing a weighted vest that equals 3-5% of person’s body mass does not provide enough training stimulus to improve strength and bone turnover markers in adults.

You can learn more about “how heavy should a weighted vest be” in my article here.

What would happen if you wore a weighted vest all day?

Okay, so you’re wondering what happens if I walk around with a weighted vest all day?

I started my experiment of wearing a 20 lbs vest for 30 days, but I only managed to wear it all day for a few days per week.

The biggest obstacle I had that stopped me from carrying a vest everywhere with me was my work (I spend 5-6 hours per day behind the desk).

I figured this method will work best when combined with frequent walking and it won’t work very well while I sit most of the day in the office.

So, most of the time I was using it intermittently, only for my workouts. The times when I wore my vest for the entire time were when I worked from home.

Benefits of wearing a weighted vest all day

Will wearing a weighted vest make me stronger like Goku steeping out of the gravity chamber? Let’s see. According to the hypergravity studies, the biggest benefits of wearing a weighted vest all the time lead to:

  • Increased sprinting speed
  • Improved lower body power and strength
  • Increased the resting metabolic rate
  • Increases in cardiovascular fitness
  • Reduced muscle protein breakdown
  • Greater weight loss
  • It makes you look like a Navy SEAL badass

Here are some of the benefits and things that happened to my body after wearing 20 lbs vest for multiple days.

My strength and muscle mass went up

After training in a weighted vest and wearing it for the entire day (intermittently), I gained 1.6 lbs of lean muscle mass and improved my upper and lower body strength.

  • Before the experiment, I was able to do 135 bench for 21 reps, 33 sit-ups in 30 seconds, and 13 pull-ups in 60 seconds.
  • After wearing a vest for 30 days, I did 135 bench for 27 reps, 37 sit-ups in 30 seconds, and 17 pull-ups in 60 seconds.
Outdoor parks are ideal for weighted vest workouts

As you can see, I wasn’t training in the gym. All of my workouts included only bodyweight exercises like squats, push-ups, dips, lunges, chin-ups, and burpees. I wasn’t doing any compound movements with barbells or dumbbells.

Wearing a weighted vest all day long does help to “build muscle” and strength becasue it puts the muscle on constant resistance, especially the lower body. Studies have also shown that wearing a weighted vest can reduce muscle and strength loss, especially in the older population (source).

I got better at Tennis

One of the ways I like to spend my recovery days is by playing tennis. I was wearing my weighted vest for every game.

  • Before the experiment, I wasn’t expecting any radical changes in regard to conditioning or speed.
  • After carrying a loaded vest was that I was able not only to hit the ball harder but also got much quicker at the lateral movements.

I stopped doing a bunch of cardio

I wear a Fitbit for most of the days becasue it helps me to measure my calorie expenditure, heart rate, and heart rate variability.

  • Before the experiment, I would spend 3-4 days on the treadmill walking uphill at the speed of 3.2 mph and 5% incline. This would give me 150 minutes of cardio training at an intensity equal to the heart rate zone 2 (50-60% of maximum heart rate), based on my age and body weight.
  • After wearing 20 lbs vest for all day, I noticed that doing basic home activities like gardening, walking the dog, house cleaning, or grocery shopping was enough to elevate my heart rate to similar intensity.

In fact, walking around with my dog, Rolo, while wearing a 20 lbs vest increased my heart rate to 110-115 BPM, which is the same as walking on the treadmill at 2.8 mph and 5% incline, according to my Fitbit.

Wearing a weighted vest all day reduced my appetite

When I diet, I rarely count calories or measure food portions. I prefer to practice mindful eating where I “listen” to my hunger cues (so I’m in touch with my hunger signals).

  • Before the experiment, I was eating approximately 3 meals per day and had food cravings for a snack in between the meals.
  • After wearing a weighted vest all day I noticed a significant drop in my appetite and hunger levels. I didn’t have food cravings during the day and I wasn’t thinking constantly about the food (which is what happens when I’m in a calorie deficit).

I lost 9 lbs of fat without dieting

One of the biggest pros of wearing a vest all day long was that I was able to burn extra calories and lose 9 pounds of fat without even dieting.

In general, wearing a weighted vest all day can help to lose weight becasue it accelerates your metabolic rate, burn extra calories, and increases NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis). Plus, it can increase daily energy expenditure, without spending more time on exercise.

  • Before the experiment, my body weight was 189 pounds. My body fat percentage was 16.6%.
  • After wearing a weighted vest all day my weight went down to 181 and my bf was 14.2%.

I won’t be covering here all the details of how to lose weight with a weighted vest. I’ve already covered that in my article “weighted vest for weight loss“, which I recommend you read.

Disadvantages of wearing a weighted vest all day

Okay, apart from the benefits, there are also some disadvantages that you should keep in mind before starting to wear a weighted vest all day long.

The most obvious drawback of carrying artificial weight is muscle pain and soreness. From day one, my body started to fatigue quite significantly. I had pain in my middle back, so I had to keep reminding myself to keep my core engaged all the time.

My legs didn’t hurt that much, but they felt extremely stiff (kind of like doing yoga for the first time after a break). I needed to spend extra time on stretching and mobility becasue otherwise, I wasn’t able to walk.

I was sweating all the time

Another pitfall of wearing a vest every day was sweating. I tend to sweat a lot even when I do strength training at the gym. So wearing a vest was a pain in the ass becasue I had to constantly change t-shirts and take a shower 2-3 times per day.

Another thing to keep in mind is that a weighted vest does absorb the moisture from sweat. So if you wear it all day long, eventually it will start to smell.

I recommend washing your vest at least once a week to ensure your body does not smell like BO (unless you wanna lose all of your friends).

Sitting was uncomfortable

I don’t recommend wearing a weighted vest all day if you sit for most of the day. On the days when I worked from the office, I would take it easy and not carry the vest with me.

The “potential” benefit of calories burned is not worth the tradeoff of having constant back pain and having a difficult time relaxing and focusing on your work.

How to wear a weighted vest all day

Here are some of the tips that you may find helpful to use your weighted vest on daily basis.

  • Start wearing your weighted vest only during exercise, then gradually apply progressive overload and increase the duration for the whole day (progress should take you 4 to 12 weeks).
  • Use the vest that corresponds to 5-10% body weight, then slowly increase the weight of the vest. I recommend adding additional 1 lbs once every 1-2 weeks. Do not go heavier than 20% of your body eight, unless you train under the strict supervision of a personal trainer or S&C coach.
  • Start by wearing the vest every for 1-2 workouts per week and slowly increase to total volume. If at any time any of your muscles start to hurt, take off the vest immediately.
  • For beginners, it is not advisable to wear a weighted vest for the whole day as it is likely to make you very tired and could cause soreness and muscle pain in various parts of your body.
  • Always wear a vest that is close to your body to prevent from jiggling and moving around. Ideally, you want to use the vest that has equilibrium with the amount of weight redistributed in the front and back of the body.
  • Do not take shower or swim in the vest (unless you’re using the weighted swimming suit). Material fibers in a regular weighted vest can easily absorb moisture and damage the vest.
  • Do not sleep in your vest becasue it can cause difficulty in breathing.

My thoughts after wearing a weighted vest all day long

After my experiment I can conclude that wearing a weighted vest all day for a month was worth it, however, I would not do it again.

This type of training can be effective for professional athletes who are looking for new ways to beat their competition. However, for the average Joe, this type of workout isn’t the most optimal (nor practical) way to build muscle or burn fat.

It does help with burning calories and increasing resting heart rate while doing low-intensity activities that otherwise would not bring any benefits (e.g. walking with a dog). However, I would not use weighted vest bodyweight exercises as the primary workout program.

Conclusion

Wearing a weighted vest all day is completely different than your regular workout. It does have some pros and cons, but the biggest benefit that I noticed is a reduction in appetite and hunger.

In my opinion, this is a good way to reduce calorie intake, but it’s not the most practical way to improve strength.

Apart from increased calorie burn, there are many benefits of wearing a weighted vest, as long as you’re already accustomed to this type of training.

Michal Sieroslawski

Michal is an exercise physiologist (MSc), nutrition coach, Ashtanga teacher, and fitness blogger. He shares his successes and failures to help busy men and women squash down 20, 50, or even 100 pounds of fat without leaving their home.

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