What You Need to Know About Waist Trainers

Medically Reviewed by Carol DerSarkissian, MD on July 08, 2023
4 min read

Waist trainers promise to shrink your waist and even help you lose weight. But do they work, and what are the health risks of wearing one? 

Waist trainers aren't a new invention. Today’s waist trainers are similar to corsets that people wore more than a hundred years ago. Women wore corsets under their dresses to make their waistlines look smaller.

Waist trainers are usually made of a thick, sturdy fabric. Many offer metal boning that provides support around your torso. Waist trainers wrap around your torso and fasten using a lacing system, hook-and-eye clasps, or sticky fasteners. The stiff boning runs vertically to keep the fabric of the waist trainer from bunching up where your waist gets smaller.

The idea behind a waist trainer is to gradually build up to wearing it for longer periods of time each day. As you wear it longer, it molds your waist and hips to form a more well-defined hourglass figure. According to claims by companies selling waist trainers, they can trim inches off your waist and help you lose weight in the process.

More affordable waist trainers cost around $20, but you can find products that cost over $100. No matter which product you buy, they all work similarly. 

If you’re looking to boost results from your workouts, a waist trainer may be a great short-term addition to your routine. However, it isn’t healthy to wear a waist trainer for extended periods of time.

A temporary fix. Maybe you’ve decided to invest in a waist trainer to see what kind of results you can achieve. Keep in mind that any results are temporary and will quickly disappear after you stop using a waist trainer. If you lose a few inches off of your waist, they may come back after you leave the waist trainer off for a few days or a week.‌

The product forces your body into a particular shape, often getting rid of water weight you carry around your midsection. But without the constant support of a waist trainer, your waist returns to its normal shape and size. Waist training doesn’t cause any short-term health problems, but long-term use may have side effects.

Short-term results. If you want to look better in a particular dress, a waist trainer may help to provide short-term results. You could wear a waist trainer for a single event without committing to long-term use.

Motivation. Some people are motivated to do better with their diet and exercise by using waist trainers. When you use them correctly and don’t overdo it, a waist trainer may serve as a reminder to sit up straight and eat less during meals. This may help keep you on track as you start a new diet or exercise routine.

Not permanent. Waist trainers are easy to take off, so you can wear them for as long as you want. It’s important to listen to your body and take your waist trainer off if you have pain, discomfort, or shortness of breath.

Core strength. While waist trainers do keep your core tight and compressed, they lessen your core strength over time. This is because waist trainers do the work of maintaining your posture for you. You may experience pain and discomfort after wearing a waist trainer for an extended length of time because your core has to adjust to doing more work.

Internal damage. Wearing a waist trainer may also damage your internal organs by forcing them into unnatural positions. If your organs are under the pressure of a waist trainer for too long, they may not work as well as they should. This can lead to long-term damage.‌

Instead of using a waist trainer, try exercise routines that focus on your core muscles. When you consistently strength-train and engage your core and back muscles, you can achieve a smaller waist with fewer health risks.

Suffocation. Using a waist trainer cuts your lung capacity by 30-60%. If you use a waist trainer during a workout, this is dangerous. A lack of oxygen may lower your energy and cause inflammation that lasts after you take the device off.

Waste of money. At best, a waist trainer costs you money without providing the long-term results you may want. The temporary results don’t justify the investment.

Talk to your doctor before you try a waist trainer. They can talk to you about your health concerns and help you make the best decision for your needs.