Oh, fitness infomercials. Each are filled with promises of sculpted abs, firm forearms and slender waists. Throw in some terrible actors with fluorescent-white smiles over-eagerly using the product and you’ve successfully scripted Saturday Night Live’s next commercial parody. But are these seemingly ridiculous fitness trends good for more than just laughs? Check out what experts are saying about your favorite fitness infomercial products:
1. The Shake Weight
Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve seen the informercial (or more likely a parody) about this phallic object that you move vigorously with your hands. The company claims that the shakable weight targets muscles and tones arms more effectively than a traditional dumbbell, but reviews by health science experts refute this assertion. Michael R. Esco, professor in the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Alabama, writes for WebMD: “Save your money and do not buy this exercise device. You can probably get the same type of workout by using a regular 5-lb. dumbbell and shaking it back and forth.
“Of course, that would not be recommended as an effective way to work your muscles very well, either.”
2. Chair Fitness
The only time you should be doing fitness in a chair is if you have limited mobility. In fact, the concept of “chair fitness” is ironic considering that research has shown sitting around increases your risk of obesity. NBC News went so far as to call it “the new smoking,” quoting doctors who say sitting not only increases your risk for cancer, but actually causes it. Furthermore, even if you work out for an hour every day, that’s counteracted significantly by the eight hours or more you spent sitting at work. In short, the words “chair” and “fitness” do not belong side by side.
The iGallop combines the worst aspects of the shake weight and chair fitness: it is both a sexually suggestive piece of workout equipment and requires the user be sitting to perform the exercise. Despite the iGallop’s oh-so-clever name, it’s not Apple’s latest product, but rather a glorified mechanical bull … that you can conveniently ride in your own home! It’s easy to see from iGallop’s infomercial that its marketing team is trying deperately to find a link to fitness, as the voice-over claims: “Horse riding is one of the best forms of exercise.” Um, maybe for the horse?
Long before the Shake Weight was lampooned on Saturday Night Live, Thighmaster got a lot of laughs in a spoof on the 90s sketch comedy show In Living Color. Touted as a toning product for your upper legs by spokeswoman Suzanne Somers, the Thighmaster is a essentially a tube that you squeeze between your groin. If you thought this fitness fad had become obsolete, you’d be quite wrong. Somers recently appeared on The Wendy Williams Show to promote her newest vibrating thighmaster, fresh off her induction into the Direct Response Hall of Fame (the Hollywood Walk of Fame for informercial stars). Guess she was forward-thinking and realized we’d all be obsessed with “thigh gaps” in 2015.
5. Free Flexor
As Consumerist.com so eloquently put it, the Free Flexor has outdone the Shake Weight in being the most “self-stimulating workout device on the market.” Yep, it’s another exercise that is creepily reminiscent of masturbation. What is with this trend, by the way? Erotic overtones aside, does the free flexor actually sculpt your arms? Certified personal trainer Nicole Palacios says that the product is just another gimmick. “If you’re trying to get the body of one of the guys on their infomercial, you will have to train much differently,” she says.
Moral of the story? Don’t trust infomercials. Except I still really want a Snuggie.