You’ve seen them on TV. Infomercials for sexier abs, bigger muscles and promises that you’ll get the body you’ve always wanted with less effort and strain. The ads feature paid models with rippling muscles or tantalizing figures that raise our expectations that by using this one piece of home exercise equipment, we too can look like that.
Many of us recognize the ad for just what it represents — a glitzy, high-energy, marketing gimmick designed to sell more products. However, given their popularity, the question remains, are these fitness machines worth getting off the couch to buy?
The health division of Consumer Reports (CR) regularly tests such products using a panel of testers. Here’s a sampling of what they recently found out about a number of home fitness products.
CR found that the Ab Coaster did work the abs and obliques when used correctly, but many of the testers had difficulty doing the exercises properly. Some testers reported back discomfort when doing the exercises. The Belly Burner did not work the abs at all. The Ab Rocket did not engage the abs as much as abdominal curls on a mat. The main difference between the Ab Coaster and simple ab curls done on a mat is the $400 price tag.
CR compared three home cardio machines including the Bowflex Treadclimber, Tony Little’s Rock ’n Roll Stepper and the Cardio Twister with treadmill walking at 3.5 mph and found they all were just as good at burning calories. The Treadclimber actually burned as many calories as running at 6 mph on a flat treadmill. The question is, at $2,500, is the Tread- Climber worth the investment?
CR’s testing of two upper body machines produced mixed results. The Perfect Pullup and Perfect Pushup both provided good assistance for doing those standard exercises. However, the panelists had mixed reactions about how well they worked. On Feb. 17, 2011, the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a recall of the Perfect Pullup because of a fall injury hazard. The maker of the product, Perfect Fitness of Mill Valley, Calif., voluntarily recalled the products after it received 2,200 reports of cracked handles and 38 complaints of injuries.
The bottom line is, as far as CR is concerned, you don’t have to spend a lot of money on infomercial fitness machines because standard floor exercises and regular walking or jogging can provide as good a workout. However, they do acknowledge that some people find fitness machines motivating and, in some cases, they can be safer than working out on your own with free weights. For more information on these and other health products, log on to Consumer ReportsHealth.org.
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