Exercise infomercials have a clever way of catering to our deepest insecurities. Consider the scenario. They are usually shown during or after late night television shows. There's a good chance that the viewer is up late and has already been seduced by the bombardment of junk food commercials. Suddenly, a super fit couple appears on the screen. They are using some sort of exercise gadget and appear to be having a grand old time. Then, the camera cuts to the supposed "before" shots, which show an obese couple lounging on the couch. The message is clear. Buy this product and you will become sleek, slim and sexy.
Evaluating the Claims of Exercise Infomercials
According to Consumer Reports, most exercise infomercials claim that "scientific evidence" supports the effectiveness of their product. Consumer Reports researchers were interested in the validity of these claims.
The testing process proved to be enlightening. If a manufacturer was marketing a piece of equipment that was designed to work the obliques, they would test it against the crunch, which is not an oblique exercise. Of course, if the exercise machine uses rotational torso movement, it would score higher for oblique activation. These results would then be presented to the unsuspecting viewing public. However, if the general public was aware of the study performed by the American Council on Exercise, they would know that the bicycle maneuver, which is performed without any type of equipment ranked highest for oblique activation.
Fact and Fiction
Many companies refused to turn over their research to Consumer Reports. They either claimed that the research was proprietary, or that it was "too complex" for Consumer Reports researchers to understand. However, the manufacturers of the Air Climber did turn over their data. The tests of their product included 11 subjects and were performed in an undisclosed laboratory. While the manufacturers claimed that their machine burns 950 calories an hour, only one of the subjects burned that many. The average participant burned 490 calories per hour.
In some cases, a study might pertain to a generic activity. While the research might conclude that the particular type of activity is, in fact, beneficial, a manufacturer might use the study to imply that his particular product was the subject of the study. The Urban Rebounding NASA study is a prime example. When Consumer Reports researchers looked at the study, they found that it did state some of the benefits of rebounding exercise. However, unlike the claims made on the Urban Rebounding website, the specific product was not mentioned. Furthermore, rebounding was never referred to as a "miracle exercise." The Urban Rebounding website has recently been revised to reflect a more accurate report of the study.
Sit Up Silliness
When examining the claims of ab machine manufacturers, the researchers found that reinventing the sit-up made about as much sense as reinventing the wheel. Neither the Ab Rocket nor the Rock-N-Go Exerciser could hold a candle to the basic crunch in terms of abdominal muscle activation. Additionally, in the American Council on Exercise Study, the researchers found that the AB Rocker was shown to be up to 80 percent less effective than a traditional crunch and that the Ab Roller was equally, but no more effective. Considering that these machines usually cost over $100, it's best to proceed with caution before buying.
The Bottom Line
In most cases, exercise infomercial products are either designed to work one part of the body, or one aspect of fitness such as aerobic exercise or muscle toning. To be truly fit, you need to cover all aspects of fitness. Cheaper products such as stability balls and exercise bands are far more versatile than the average piece of home exercise equipment. They are also more affordable and can be taken with you on vacation.