What Happened When Our Writer Wore a Weighted Vest for a Week Straight

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Never mind the funny looks. Here’s what it taught him about building muscle and burning calories

Not so niche as they once were, weighted vests are now a regular part of many a gym-goer’s fitness routine. Whether you’re a sometime CrossFitter who uses them for Hero WODs or just want to add muscle to your garden workouts, the extra weight (usually about 5-20kg) provides a quick way to burn extra calories and build more strength.

But what about the hours outside of your training sessions? Could a weighted vest optimise your time in the office, on the commute and hanging around the house? To find out, I strapped one on for a week straight.

Weighted vests weren’t invented simply to add a little puff to your pull-ups. Unsurprisingly, they have their origin in the military and elite police divisions, where they were used to simulate the extra weight of body armour and equipment during training exercises. It’s why the most popular style of vest is a ‘plate carrier’ – which uses two slabs of sheet metal that slot into pouches in the front and in the back. (PSA: they are not bulletproof.)

Perhaps the most scientific of forces is at play here: gravity. Or, to go further, ‘gravitostat’. The gravitostat theory states that there is an innate scale inside all of us, one that monitors how much we weigh and endeavours to keep our fat mass in balance. When this theory was originally tested on mice in 2018, researchers saw that making obese rodents think that they were heavier led to greater weight loss.

More recently, a study by the University of Gothenburg found that the same effect could apply to us humans. They put 69 slightly overweight subjects in a weight vest for at least five hours a day and found that, just by wearing it, weight loss exceeded the expected levels linked to the average rate of regular exercise.

I decided to keep things simple. I put on my 10kg vest when I woke up, wore it all day, and only took it off when I climbed back into bed. This included all the activities of my normal day-to-day. Walking the dog is something I have worn my vest for in the past, so that felt fairly normal. Commuting to work was not normal. Sitting on the Gatwick Express in what looks like a bulletproof vest attracted some looks. Likewise, walking around our central London offices in the vest meant I spent a good deal of my time explaining to colleagues quite what I was doing. Standing on the sidelines of my eldest son’s football game in a stab vest also seemed a bit excessive.

Yes, I felt a bit silly to begin with. But the benefits are undeniable. In seven days, I lost a total of 1.25kg. I did one workout, but the rest we could put down to my gravitostat freaking out that I was suddenly 10kg heavier than normal. I was certainly tired by the end of the day and I slept better as a result, which was nice. Another unexpected plus was that my posture was instantly improved. Being suddenly heavier made me conscious of walking and sitting straight, as leaning or slumping put too much weight through my back and core.

When I turned up for work in the office the following week without the vest, people stopped me in the corridors to ask why I wasn’t wearing it any more. It had become ‘my thing’. Should you make it your thing? Perhaps, but with some caveats. Wear a vest when you’re working from home or going for a walk, but leave it at home when you go to the office or on the school run. You’ll get the extra calorie burn and save yourself double takes. That’s something we could all do with a load less of.

David Morton is Deputy Editor at Men’s Health, where he has written, worked, edited and sweated for 12 years. His areas of particular interest are fitness, workouts and adventure.

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