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Do Weight Vests Stunt Your Growth? What Science Says

Are you looking for a way to improve your fitness? Weight vests are becoming a popular tool for athletes and people looking to improve their overall fitness. They are often used in training programs to increase the intensity of a workout, or as part of rehabilitation from an injury. But do weight vests stunt your growth?

While there is some concern that wearing a weighted vest might stunt your growth, there is no definitive evidence to support this claim. In fact, recent studies have shown that weight vests can be beneficial for children, helping them to improve their strength and athletic performance.

As a way to improve overall fitness, weighted vests are becoming increasingly popular. Let’s take a closer look at the related research on this topic and find out if there is any truth to this claim.

Do Weight Vests Stunt Your Growth?

Do weight vests stunt your growth?

No. There is zero evidence that weight vests stunt your growth. In fact, the opposite may be true. Recent research has shown that lifting weights, which is essentially what a weight vest is, can help adolescents build muscle, bone strength, and help reduce injury if done correctly.

The part about “if done correctly” is critical. Overdoing anything, or doing it incorrectly, can cause injury and all sorts of issue. I still doubt stunted growth would be one, but other issues could arise. It’s important to do everything, including wearing a weight vest, in moderation and build up slowly.

One of the reasons people believe weight vests, or lifting weights in general, can stunt growth is the misconception that lifting weights can cause damage to the growth places. While it could if not done properly, so do many other things. A large percentage of childhood injuries come from playing sports and can potentially damage growth places.

How Else Can We Think About Extra Weight?

Children running and jumping with just their bodyweight are putting a lot of pressure and stress on their skeletal system. This is totally normal. The question is does another 5%-10% make a big difference? What if the child gained weight but had the same underlying skeletal-muscular makeup? Would they be at greater risk of their growth being stunted?

As you can see, putting a bit of logic to it helps to remove the misconception that weight vests can stunt your growth.

One more example: this study had athletes wear a weighted vest of around 10% of their bodyweight for 8 hours per day 4 days per week in their daily lives. They found that this actually helped them perform weighted exercises when pushing themselves.

This study helps illustrate that not only was it not harmful to wear a vest that much, it was helpful. That doesn’t mean the average person should, but it’s interesting to note that considerable amounts of extra weight isn’t necessarily a bad thing in healthy, trained athletes.

Are Weighted Vests Harmful?  

Weighted vests can be harmful to anyone if not used properly. One common issue is when people try to put too much weight on the vest at once. Resistance training, including weighted vests, needs to start slow and gradually build with the muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Improper form or weight causes problems.

Resistance training with weight vests or free weights/machines has many benefits like building muscle, increasing bone strength, and helping produce a better body composition in general.

Build Muscle

Weight vests can be worn for a variety of exercises including running and other plyometric exercises. While running long distances with a weighted vest is not recommended, doing more explosive exercises like sprinting for shorter distances with a weight vest can be beneficial.

Considering the time wearing the weight vest would be minimal, it definitely would have no affect on your growth. In a recent study in Translational Pediatrics, it was found resistance training in youth and adolescents is actually a very positive thing. This included plyometrics, which is commonly done using a weight vest.

“It is also recommended to incorporate plyometrics at a maximum of 2–3 times per week to prevent muscular injury.”

Translational pediatrics

A few key things to note: the training must be proper. This means adding very low weights and gradually increasing as the athlete’s strength increases.

In the proper design of training programs there are three critical aspects—education regarding proper lifting form, adequate supervision, and effectively scaled lifting.

What Weight Is Recommended?

It’s generally recommended that a weight vest be no more than 10%-15% of bodyweight of the wearer. It is dependent on the exercise, however that would be on the higher end for any sort of running application. Many of the best weighted vests come with several weight options from lighter to heavier so you can adjust the weight as you get stronger.

How Long Should You Wear a Weighted Vest?

While there isn’t a designed amount of time to wear a weight vest, generally speaking weight vests should be worn for quicker, shorter duration exercises. You wouldn’t want to run a marathon in a weight vest. At some point, the benefit of the weight vest will be overshadowed by the extra strain on the wearer.

For this reason, it’s common to utilize weight vests during shorter duration exercises like sprinting vs long-distance running. Ultimately, your body will tell you when it’s time to take it off. I’ve worn several weight vests, and at some point you’re doing more damage than good.

Your shoulders, back, and upper body starts to fatigue while your legs may still be ok. This can be especially true when walking with a heavy weight vest. The weight may be harder to support with your upper body than the benefit your legs are getting.

One common way to utilize a weight vest is during the warmup. This can help get your muscles ready and make your actual run feel easier and lighter.


There is no evidence that wearing a weighted vest will stunt your growth. In fact, recent research has shown that resistance training in youth and adolescents is actually a very positive thing. This includes plyometrics, which is commonly done using a weight vest.

According to the study referenced, properly designed training programs with gradual weight increases are safe for children and can help improve their overall fitness. Do weight vests stunt your growth? Likely not, according to the science. However, ask your doctor if you have any concerns about it.

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About the author

Jasper loves to write about fitness, running, and anything else that gets him moving outdoors. He's an avid hiker, backpacker, and climber who loves to stay fit so he can make sure he's healthy enough to enjoy his favorite hobbies. He also spends time writing about his true passions in life.