If you have ever found yourself watching television late at night or mindlessly browsing social media, chances are you have probably come across quite a few infomercials or campaigns promoting the next great “beach body” solution. There is no denying that fitness and weight loss are big business. Analysts estimate that in 2014 the industry pulled in revenue totaling $84.3 billion in sales. Over the years some strange products and trends have been sold, however some of these fitness fads are not only ineffective, they can also be harmful to our health and well-being. Because of this, more and more Americans are leaving these schemes behind (and you should too!).
Who doesn’t remember the iconic image of the Shake Weight, a fitness training tool that was quickly exploited for laughs on many late television shows when it hit the market in 2009? This modified fitness tool earned several media features including skits on Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show. This 2.5 pound dumbbell with springs on either end promised a simultaneous workout for the chest, biceps, triceps and shoulders. Many were left skeptical, but the product still sold a whopping excess of two million units during its first year of sales.
With its extravagant claims and unusual design, several investigative studies followed, including one in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine. A survey of young adults concluded that results from exercising with the vibrating weight were no different from the effects of traditional dumbbells. Additionally, a study conducted in 2011, and published in Consumer Reports, concluded that the tool’s vibrational approach to muscle tone was less effective than typical exercise methods that target one area of the body at a time. The report also stated that the associated routine burned less calories than a 3 mph walk! While products like the Shake Weight are mostly harmful to your bank account (and ego), it is also proven to be an excessively expensive and taxing alternative, while proving less effective than tried-and-true fitness methods.
Another recent trend in fitness came in the form of “toning shoes.” Many leading sneaker brands, like Reebok and Sketchers, developed their own versions, such as the Easy Tones and Shake-Ups, respectively. These shoes were celebrity and athlete-endorsed and offered accompanying marketing quips promising improved muscle strength, toned buttocks and hamstrings and the lasting benefits of exercising throughout the day—just from routine walking!
Besides the many studies that emerged disparaging the health miracle claims associated with the product, the Consumer Product Safety Commission released several customer reports with complaints of injuries associated with toning shoes. Analysis of the shoes’ design revealed that the shoes’ “rocker bottom” lead to perpetual instability on the feet causing stress on muscles that are not conventionally used when walking. According to the American Council on Exercise: the shoes’ design “forces the body to constantly struggle to find an equilibrium or balance point.” By causing the body to walk in an abnormal pattern, many individuals were causing their bodies more harm than good, including long-term effects on their gait and ability to walk greater distances on unstable surfaces.
Weight Loss Belts and Wraps
Leading the pack in fitness product infomercials for many decades are weight loss belts and body wraps. Through these long, detailed and somewhat entertaining infomercials, consumers are promised that they could tone their abs, tighten their lower body and slim their thighs without even leaving the couch. The claim was simple, all they had to do was put on their adjustable weight loss belt and let the product do its magic. Dominant among such weight loss and toning products was a belt engineered like a heating pad that was designed to go around the waist and “melt the pounds away.” The belt caused perspiration, which advertisements associated with weight loss, but the trendy belt has revealed many harmful side effects. The belt’s design significantly impacts body temperature while inhibiting the body’s natural cooling pattern. This can actually inhibit the body’s healing function and adaptability, potentially leading to illness and severe complications such as a heat stroke. Furthermore, body wraps and weight loss belts have been associated with skin burns, especially when used regularly over a period of time, and electrolyte imbalance and severe dehydration.
We’ll take the effects of these fitness fads as a lesson that health and safety should always come first when it comes to weight loss. Not to mention, most of the time the only thing slimming down is your wallet.
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