The Best (and Worst) Fitness Gadgets

on September 12, 2011

The Best — and Worst — Fitness Gadget Buys

To buy or not to buy, that is the question. Those “As Seen on TV” fitness products are sooo convincing ... rock hard abs without doing anything? We’ll take it! But that inner voice of reason says it may not actually work. So, we went to fitness guru Kim Schaper, a certified personal trainer and owner of Kim Schaper Fitness in Atlanta to help us determine what’s lame and what’s legit. Now you can make smart decisions with your hard-earned dollar.

Shake Weight

What it claims: Sculpted arms in just six minutes a day! Rating: Lame. “I’m perplexed with their term ‘Dynamic Inertia Exercise.’ In the fitness industry, this phrase is rarely, if ever, used,” says Schaper. “Simply put, this means holding any object and shaking it across a limited range of motion. It essentially forces the same muscles to work over and over again, which is not the best approach." Do this instead: Plain ol’ pushups. “Save your money and use your own body weight! Pushups offer great resistance and a gravitational push/pull motion, which you can’t get by using the Shake Weight,” Schaper says. If a regular push-up is too challenging for you, modify the position by starting with your knees on the ground.

Ab Belt

What it claims: Through electro-muscle stimulation, the belt works out your abs while you watch TV and go about your business. Rating: Legit. Sort of. “The belt can be heavy, sweaty and uncomfortable, and it seems unlikely that anyone would wear this every day,” Schaper says. “Their claim of the electro-muscle stimulation is legit (it does make your abdominal wall clench) but that doesn’t mean you’re going to get chiseled abs tomorrow.” Do this instead: Eat healthy! “You can do sit-ups and crunches until you are blue in the face, but diet plays such a significant factor in cut and toned abs,” Schaper says. “I would also suggest incorporating some core-type movements such as the plank and side bridge.”

Gaiam Balance Ball

What it claims: Fixes lower back/lumbar issues and strengthens your core. Rating: Legit. “This balance and stability ball activates and stimulates the core muscles and is very beneficial for people who are sitting behind their desk all day and tend to have nagging lower back issues,” Schaper says. The flip side: The ball will take some getting used to. “Sitting on that ball does require some stabilization and core strength, which can be gained over time. The only downfall I see with this product is the lack of arm rests and potential release of air over time.”

Inversion Table

What it claims: Helps reduce the pressure between the spinal disks. Rating: Legit. “The upside down position automatically reduces the compression of your spinal disks and can eliminate some of the pressure on your nerves stemming from your spinal column,” Schaper says. “This brings relief from back pain, leg pain and sciatica.”The flip side: There is none ... this thing works!

Sauna Pants

What it claims: Lose weight and stimulate fat release while you wear the pants. Rating: Lame…but good for a chuckle. “This product is laughable at best,” says Schaper. “It does not support any of its claims of health and wellness unless you are specifically referring to water weight. You can lose weight when you shed water, but this causes dehydration, which leads to several health risks.” Do this instead: The alternatives are endless! “Rather than sitting around in the sauna pants waiting for your groin to perspire, go for a bike ride or hike! That will get you sweating in all the right places.” Touché!