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How to Lose Weight Without Losing Bone

Weighted vests may help older adults retain bone density while dropping fat.

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Bone density and weight loss

Wearing a weighted vest may help older adults to successfully lose weight while protecting bone quality and density. Losing excess weight offers health benefits for older adults, but losing bone mass does not. And many who lose both weight and bone do not regain bone density, even if they regain the weight.

Wake Forest University researchers in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, conducted a 6-month pilot study in which participants wore a 2-pound vest for an average of 6.5 hours per day. People who wore the vest dramatically reduced hip bone loss when compared with those who did not wear the vest. The pilot study is available in The Journal of Frailty & Aging (2018; 7 [3], 198–203).

“With the weighted vest, you’re keeping yourself at an equal load while you lose weight,” says principal investigator Kristen M. Beavers, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Health and Exercise Science. “We know that not all, but a lot, of bone loss that occurs when you drop pounds is because of this ‘unloading effect.’” This year, a new study to confirm WFU’s findings will follow 192 adults ages 60–85 in a randomized, controlled trial.

See also: Having the Bone Health Talk With Clients


Shirley Eichenberger-Archer, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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