Osteoporosis, although not a natural consequence of aging, affects 10 million Americans (8 million women and 2 million men). Most people mistakenly think that inadequate calcium intake is the single cause when in fact it is a combination of nutritional factors, lack of both weight-bearing exercises and core body strength that leads to the condition.
Our bones are constantly breaking down and rebuilding as a result of the normal everyday stresses we place on them. Since muscles attach to bones, the strength and density of bone increase with an increase in muscle strength.
Dr. Joel Fuhrman writes in the March 2005 Healthy Times that practicing good posture and doing exercises that stress the spine enough to stimulate bone growth are very important. Activities such as digging, shoveling, carrying, using a rowing machine, and back extension exercises are all excellent examples. In recent years a number of scientific studies have shown that wearing a properly designed weighted vest while engaging in activities of daily living and during exercise programs is an effective way to treat or prevent osteoporosis in higher risk individuals.
The vest should be designed to hold small 1 and 2 lb. weights in the back pack area so that the weight is felt on the shoulders to promote bone growth in the spine. A poorly designed vest places the weight at the waist level and may cause low back pain.
When first starting to use a weighted vest, the fitness level of the user needs to be considered. A more sedentary person should start with a small amount of weight, say 4 lbs., and wear the vest for short periods of time. The amount of weight carried and length of time worn should be increased gradually according to the individual’s tolerance level.
The vest can be worn while doing household chores, walking, and while doing other exercises. Wearing the vest has other benefits too, including increasing caloric expenditure and strengthening the stability muscles, which help to improve balance and reduce risk of falls.