One form of simple cardio that I like doing is walking with a weight vest on. I don’t really enjoy jogging too much, and most forms of machine based cardio tend to bore me. I always enjoy taking a walk, especially when I can go places that I haven’t walked before. Working on a college campus gives me lots of opportunities to walk around old brick building that have slightly maze like floor plans along with plenty of grounds and sidewalks to adventure down. This is a nice little break for me to get the heart rate up, but to not beat myself up.
Why walk around with a weight vest on? Is this about trying to give of a certain type of look? Because walking around a college campus with a weird bulging metal vest on will cause concerned looks from students and faculty. I do this, because it is an easy way to burn more calories without having to add increasing amounts of stress on my joints that I would have to do by running. It will make me use more muscle mass like you would use for running, but without the added impacts.
How does this work you might wonder? Well, let’s start off with what a calorie is. I know that doesn’t make much sense for now, but it will in a moment. One calorie is enough energy to increase one milliliter of water one degree Celsius (when it starts off at about 70 degrees fahreinheit), the calories that we eat are in kilocalories or Calories (notice how it is capitalized). This means we are now talking about increasing one liter of water one degree Celsius. These calories are the energy source that the body uses to cause the muscles to contract (among other things).
Now in order to move a human body we require calories to make this happen. In fact a human that weighs about 180lbs. will burn a bit over 100 calories each mile that they walk (at a leisurely pace) the amount burned per mile will increase with speed to a certain extent. The work that you are doing in this case is mechanical, and just like how cars need gas to move, the same is true with the body. So if I walk at my body size about 3 miles (in 45 minutes or so) I will be burning about 330 calories or so, but by throwing on a 40lbs. weight vest (and sometimes more weight than that) I can increase the number burned to just over 400. That extra 70 calories burned by my muscles not only makes them work harder, but also makes my lungs and heart work harder to provide that energy (oxygen) along with giving me a slight training effect on my the muscles of my torso (I really don’t like the term “core”) which has the added benefit of helping my strength training.
The weight effect on how many calories you burn per mile is also a large part of why if you train with someone much larger (or smaller) than yourself you will notice that the bigger person seems to be making faster progress even though you are both doing the same program. This is because literally, the bigger person is carrying a larger load for every single exercise.
By adding a bit of external resistance to your body you can make your workout (walk really) more effective on your body. Now you should be in shape for this, but once you are, wearing a weight vest while mowing the lawn or walking the dog is an easy way to get even more out of the activity that you would already be doing. Slowly add this to your training repertoire and be sure to slowly add resistance. The first time you go heavy with a weight vest for walks your traps will let you know that you did so the next day. You can also get saucy with this and start doing your push ups, pull ups, sit ups, and so on with a weighted vest on. This is just a way to load the barbell, which is the human body, a bit heavier.
If you are interested in picking up a weight vest the best one that I have used is the X vest. It fits well and is easy to take on and off, however it will bounce around on you if you try to run in it. As for other vests there is nothing really that sticks out in my mind. Try one on before you buy it out so that you know how it fits on you. A loose weight vest is going to be very uncomfortable especially while moving fast, and your goal is to make this feel like part of you so that you can move dynamically without it rattling around on you.
Aside from the weight vest, you can always just walk around with a weighted back pack. There are a number of simple ways online. Add weight in a book bag so that you can also take advantage of encumbered walking. Just wrap a few bricks in duct tape and maybe even some light foam and then throw those in a decent back pack and get out there.
Encumbered walking/hiking is another way to get in some decent conditioning without having to do hard running or needing any extra equipment. Give it a try and see what you think about doing this as a form of conditioning to do along with your normal training.