Passive Exercise: Whole-Body Vibration and More
Working out while not really working is the concept behind a trend known as passive exercise. But does it really work?
Chi Machines continued...
Quist likens it to the "jiggly belts" used in the 1950s, which
simply caused your body to shake.
"I don't think they ever proved scientifically that those belts did
anything for weight loss, and I think the effect is similar with the Chi
machines," says Quist.
Bryant agrees:"Part of the thinking here centers on the Eastern
philosophies of energy centers and those are being stimulated by this movement
activity, but I have not seen anything even close to science on
that," he says.
He adds that if you just lie on the floor and kick your legs, you would
probably get a similar circulatory effect, along with some muscle toning.
Electronic Muscle Stimulators: Ab Stimulating Machines
It's hard to miss the ads for these products -- svelte, toned guys and gals
in bikinis, showing off their "six pack" abs, ostensibly delivered
courtesy of electronic ab stimulation.
How They Work: You strap on a wide belt wired to a battery.
Stimulation is provided by tiny electrical "shocks" delivered at timed
intervals, designed to stimulate muscle contractions.
The Promise: You'll not only have stronger, firmer, more
visible abs in 30 days, but you can achieve this without ever getting off your
couch, some manufacturers say. One company says you can tone all the muscles in
your abdomen in a few weeks using the machine just 30 minutes a day -- while
you "watch TV, fold laundry, or help your kids with their
What the Experts Say: According to Bryant, the principal
behind ab stimulators comes directly from physical therapy, where it's used to
help contract injured muscles. However, he cautions that what works on a
damaged muscle will have minimal effects, at best, on a healthy one.
"While you may see some mild improvement, the only way to see 'six pack
abs' is to lose the belly fat -- and these stimulators will not help you to do
that," says Bryant.
Quist adds that the amount of stimulation necessary to tone healthy muscles
would be so great that you would likely burn or injure yourself in the process.
"I see no real value for healthy muscles," says Quist.
Varlotta agrees. "If you go back to the basic principals of muscle
stimulation, it's to help bring nutrients into the injured area and increase
blood supply," he says. "But the studies have failed to show any
increase in strength or endurance. So, from a healing standpoint, it may help
if you have an injury, but that's about it."
Moreover, in 2003, the makers of three ab stimulators -- Fast Abs, Ab
Tronic, and Ab Energizer --agreed to pay more than $5 million to settle Federal
Trade Commission charges brought against them for false advertising claims.