10/06/2021 | Andrew Tracey
Andrew Tracey is a long time collaborator with Bulldog Gear. A coach, writer and current fitness editor of Men’s Health Magazine, he has been in and around the fitness industry for the past 16 years. Having enjoyed and endured a number of disciplines from endurance racing, to strongman, to Crossfit AT enjoys getting neck deep in the practice just as much as the theory.
Doing a manual job that required a LOT of carrying and walking, I used to joke that manual labour was a cheat code for abs. But as COVID-19 hit and my lifestyle became a lot more sedentary, I realised that this was more than just a joke, and was about so much more than just a six-pack.
The World Health Organisation attributes approximately 2 million deaths per year to physical inactivity, citing that a sedentary lifestyle increases all causes of mortality, doubles the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and obesity, and increase the risks of colon cancer, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, lipid disorders, depression and anxiety. Yikes.
A complete lack of physical activity was never a concern for me, and if you’re reading this there’s a pretty high chance that you engage in some form of phys at least a few times each week, but I quickly found that many habitual parts of my life, especially my appetite, were built around this ‘old operating system’ of consistently burning through thousands of calories a day via NEAT (non exercise activity thermogenesis). Not only did this have a negative impact on my body composition, but I began to feel ‘sluggish’, demotivated and noticed a decline in my mental acuity. This is unsurprising, a Harvard study found that participants who walked outdoors for periods of time during the day had lower activity in the prefrontal cortex, a brain region that’s often associated with anxiety and depression.
My initial reaction was to attempt to put systems into place that would instantly up my activity level, I challenged myself to run 5km and perform a mixed bag of bodyweight movements, each morning, on top of my regular resistance training. This was largely successful, it gave me a huge sense of purpose in a time when this was severely lacking and it inspired me to share the protocol with others, who also expressed that they felt their general levels of contentment were raised during the challenge.
Despite this success, I began to wonder if this was a sustainable protocol; possibly for myself, but it did it present barriers to entry for those with perhaps a more slim exercise history? There were also other things I was beginning to miss from days on my feet performing repetitive tasks, such as podcasts, audiobooks and moreover- just quiet time with my thoughts.
I decided to lower the bar slightly, aiming for the minimum effective dose of movement that required the least motivation to get out of bed and perform. A simple, one hour walk, wearing a weighted vest.
WHY ADD THE VEST?
The research shows you can burn around 40-50% more calories, that may not be of interest to you, but the reason you’re burning these additional calories may be- an increased heart rate;
helping to improve your aerobic capacity. Building a strong aerobic baseline should be a priority for anyone looking to see performance and health improvements across the board.
Spending some time becoming acclimatised to moving at a steady state, with added resistance lends itself well to creating a sense of ‘lightness’ when you remove the vest, giving you the psychological boost you may need to pick up your feet and move faster under your own steam
The added mass of the vest will affect the way (and force with which) your muscles will have to fire, increasing the strain on your glutes and hamstrings, resulting in strength increases, all without overly stressing your body and requiring additional recovery time on top of your regular training.
In order to properly distribute the weight of the vest, you’re forced into a more upright, anatomically correct position than you may traditionally walk in (especially if you’re an habitual instagram browser). This small tweak will help to strengthen the postural muscles of your upper back and neck, carrying over to better, healthier posture in the long run.
WALK IT OFF
Whether you’re looking to burn a few extra calories, improve your posture or just enjoy some high quality alone time, a weighted walk is your one stop shop for holistic health.
Just load up, put one foot in front of the other and reap the benefits.