Workout Devices Get Rated
Experts Argue Pros, Cons of the Latest Exercise Equipment
Kangoo Jumps. The Bowflex. The Body Dome. The Ab Away. You've
seen them on TV. You've heard the promises -- tight abs, sculpted arms,
supercharged metabolism, burn calories like a furnace. But do these products
For feedback, WebMD turned to two experts, both with the
American Council on Exercise (ACE): Cedric Bryant, PhD, ACE's chief exercise
physiologist, and Sal Fichera, MS, exercise physiologist and certified personal
trainer with Forza Fitness in Manhattan.
Here's their advice on several "As Seen On TV"
products: the Ab Away, the Body Dome,
Body Flex, Bowflex, the Gazelle, inversion/gravity tables, Kangoo Jumps, spinning bikes, the Total Gym, and trampolines
The Ab Away
Bryant: "This is an abdominal 'training' product that
focuses on the lowering action of a sit-up. That's fine, it's an important
aspect of exercise, but there's nothing magical about it in terms of sculpting.
The ads say the product is safe because of the cushioned back support. But
given the dimensions of the device, it would seem that for individuals of
average height or taller, it will be too short to provide any real support for
Fichera: "The problem is, you are seated almost upright
during the movements. I don't think that's necessarily good. In order to
activate abs, you need to bend from the mid torso. If you bend at the hips like
old-fashioned sit-ups, you're going to use hip flexors, not abdominals. You
could do a full range of ab exercises using just your own muscles, with no
machine, and get more results."
The Body Dome
Bryant: "This is a 'stability ball' but with a stable base,
which allows you to do push-ups and other exercises. This kind of apparatus can
be used effectively for muscle conditioning exercises. However, the
infomercials hype that it can do everything -- like converting fat to muscle.
That's impossible; those are two distinct tissues. Also, it claims to
supercharge metabolism, which may lead people to believe they will burn
calories like a furnace. That would be nice, but it won't happen."
Fichera: "It's a good product, but limited. You can't do a
whole-body workout on the Body Dome. It's good for squats and crunches, but
it's not at all a full-body exercise tool. It's one tool to be added to a
series of others."
Bryant: The inventor of this program "alleges that
so-called aerobic breathing is key to weight loss -- that it speeds up
metabolism, allows you to burn more calories. That's really nonsensical. She
says that performing 15-minute exercises is the key to stoking metabolism,
which has no scientific basis."
Fichera: "Just looking at this program, it looks limited at
best. I'd have to try it to see if it really did anything."