Walking is a terrific workout, fitness experts say, but pounding the pavement might not be enough of a physical challenge for some people. Many walkers add small amounts of weight, either hand-held or strapped around their wrists or ankles. Some doctors say that puts too much strain on the joints -- better, they add, to carry the weight closer to the body's core. The Walkvest makes it easier to do just that.
Walkvest: The all-cotton vest has front and back pockets that hold the weights, which can be varied. Debbie Rocker, a Los Angeles-based athlete, personal trainer and former gym owner, came up with the idea when a friend suggested she try augmenting her treadmill workout with weights. "I was breathing deeply and my body felt worked out at the end," she said. After a while, "I had muscle tone that I didn't have when I was running, and I didn't look gaunt anymore."
Walking with a weighted vest isn't a bad idea, said Kim Bonzheim, director of noninvasive cardiology and cardiac rehabilitation at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich. But it's better suited, she added, to "people whose fitness level has improved, and they want to add more work to their walking."
Bonzheim said novice exercisers should begin with no weight and add it as they become more fit, starting with 2 pounds and increasing the amount gradually.
Price: The Walkvest, including workout CD and eight half-pound weights, is $79.95. (Other CDs and weights are available). Go to www.walkvest.com or call (877) WALKVEST.
-- Jeannine Stein