It's late at night, you're watching TV, and suddenly you find yourself mesmerized by an infomercial for fitness gear promising to have you toned and slimmed down in a matter of weeks. Sure, the claims look great, but do these gadgets and gear--especially the stuff that looks weird--really work? Yes and no. Some intrepid researchers have taken it upon themselves to test the claims, sometimes substantiating them and other times debunking them.
Alleged "toning" shoes like Skechers Shape-ups and Reebok EasyTone and RunTone shoes purported to do a number of great things for your body, such as strengthen your leg and core muscles and help you burn calories. However, the claims turned out to be unfounded. Even an American Council on Exercise study found that the footwear didn't strengthen muscles, among other things. Recently Reebok agreed to pay $25 million in customer refunds to settle with the Federal Trade Commission on deceptive advertising charges, and in May Skechers agreed to a similar FTC settlement for $50 million. Click through the gallery to find out what could help you get in shape, and what's a waste of money.
Rebound shoes like Kangoo Jumps are unlike any other fitness shoes, with their huge, oval-shaped springs that allow users to jump as they run. The manufacturer says that moving in these puts less stress on your joints by spreading out impact when you land. One study from the University of Nevada at Las Vegas found that the shoes reduced impact forces, but the study doesn't seem to have been published in a peer-review journal, and Kangoo provided the shoes. One major drawback for those with bad balance and coordination: When you're seven inches off the ground, you may experience increased wipeout while getting used to them.
(Photo: Kangoo Jumps)
The makers of the Shake Weight claim their product, basically a dumbbell with springs, provides strengthening workout in just six minutes. A WebMD review of the Shake Weight by an assistant professor of physical education and exercise science at Auburn University said that on the pro side, Shake Weight exercises are easy to perform. On the con side, the shaking motion isn't natural and could cause muscle spasms that might lead to injury. Also, a regular weight workout may provide a greater range of motion.
(Photo: herrea/ Creative Commons via Flickr)
Does the Ab Lounge really activate your upper and lower abdominals better than a regular crunch? A Journal of Strength and Conditioningstudy published this year showed that a traditional crunch may be better at activating the rectus abdominis (responsible for six-pack abs) than a jacknife crunch, the kind done on the Ab Lounge. Oh well, at least the gear has the word "lounge" in it.
(Photo: Ab Lounge)
Imagine taking an elliptcal trainer outside, and you pretty much have the ElliptiGO, sort of a cross between a bicycle and an elliptical trainer that offers a low-impact workout that's easy on your joints. A small study commissioned by the American Council on Exercise that tested a similar piece of equipment found that the machine increased users' heart rates and oxygen consumption more than a traditional ellipitcal trainer. It also offered a modest boost in calorie burn. But the trainers can be expensive, and some have a larger footprint than a bike.
(Photo: CMT Challenge/ Creative commons via flickr)
The Perfect Pushup claims to reduce joint pain and engage more muscles--more musclces than what, it doesn't say. Instead of placing hands on the ground, like a regular push-up, the gear allows you to push up from rotating handles. An American Council on Exercise-sponsored study found that the devices do activate more chest, shoulder and triceps muscles than a regular floor push-up. However, an exercise physiologist also warned that people who lack upper adequate shoulder strength may be at risk for injury. A 2010 study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research suggested that the Perfect Pushup didn't recruit any more muscles than a regular push-up.
(Photo: AustarR/ Creative commons via flickr)
The makers of Jumpsoles, rubber platforms that attach to atheltic shoes, claim they'll build up fast twitch muscle fibers, increase vertical leap and decrease time in the 40-yard dash. A forerunner to the Jumpsoles was the Strength Shoe, an athletic shoe with a thick rubber platform attached to the front sole of the shoe (Seinfeld fans will remember this well). A 1993 study on the Strength Shoe in the American Journal of Sports Medicine found that after an eight-week training program, the shoes offered no better strength, flexibility or performance.
Andrew Freeman is a California native with a degree in history from UCLA. He’s covered a wide range of topics for TakePart, but is particularly interested in politics and policy. Email Andrew |@natureofdabeast | TakePart.com