Feasibility of Weighted Vest Use During A Dietary Weight Loss Intervention and Effects on Body Composition and Physical Function in Older Adults

Abstract

Background

While intentional weight loss in older adults with obesity yields clinically important health benefits there is a need to minimize the negative effects of weight loss on concomitant loss of muscle mass and strength. Data show wearing weighted vests during exercise improves lean mass and lower extremity strength, however the efficacy of wearing a weighted vest during a period of weight loss to mitigate muscle and strength loss is not known.

Objectives

This study examined the feasibility of daily weighted vest use during a dietary weight loss intervention, and examined effects of vest use on body composition and physical function in well-functioning older adults with obesity.

Design

Randomized, controlled pilot study.

Setting

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC.

Participants

37 older (age=65-79 yrs), obese (BMI=30-40 kg/ m2) sedentary men and women.

Interventions

22-week behavioral diet intervention (targeting 10% weight loss, 1100–1300 kcals/day) with (Diet+Vest; n=20) or without (Diet; n=17) weighted vest use (goal of 10 hours/ day with weight added weekly according to individual loss of body mass).

Measurements

Body composition by dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry and measures of physical function, mobility, and muscle strength/power.

Results

Average weighted vest use was 6.7±2.2 hours/day and the vest-wear goal of 10 hrs/day was achieved for 67±22% of total intervention days. Five participants reported adverse events from wearing the vest (all back pain or soreness). Both groups lost a similar amount of weight (Diet= -11.2±4.4 kg; Diet+Vest = -11.0±6.3 kg; p<0.001), with no differences between groups (p=0.25). Fat mass, lean mass, and % body fat decreased significantly (p<0.0001), with no differences between groups. Compared to Diet+Vest, the Diet intervention resulted in greater decreases in leg power (p<0.02), with no other between group differences in physical function.

Conclusion

This pilot study showed that vest use during dietary weight loss is feasible and safe in well-functioning older adults with obesity. Larger studies are needed to definitively determine whether external replacement of lost weight during caloric restriction may preserve lower extremity muscle strength and power.

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Correspondence to Barbara J. Nicklas.

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Normandin, E., Yow, D., Crotts, C. et al. Feasibility of Weighted Vest Use During A Dietary Weight Loss Intervention and Effects on Body Composition and Physical Function in Older Adults. J Frailty Aging 7, 198–203 (2018). https://doi.org/10.14283/jfa.2018.17

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Key words

  • Caloric restriction
  • weighted vest
  • body composition
  • physical function
  • weight loss