Passive "Exercisers" – Lincoln Journal Star

Sign up here to get the latest health & fitness updates in your inbox every week!
Health experts keep droning on about diet and exercise, but are they overlooking an easier, simpler way to lose weight? What if you could burn calories and slim down without breaking a sweat? That’s the promise of many “passive exercise” devices such as the Chi machine (a therapeutic massager) and the AbTronic (a muscle stimulating device). Just plug it in, strap it on, and watch the pounds melt away.
If you’ve seen the infomercials or read any of the Internet sites touting these products, it’s easy to think you’ve discovered a cutting-edge revolution in weight loss. But these devices aren’t anything new. In fact, claims for “effortless weight loss” are about as old as snake oil. The packaging and marketing have evolved over the decades, but one thing has stayed the same: The devices have never delivered on their promises.
“Unless you are exercising your muscles, you are not expending energy,” says William McArdle, a nationally recognized expert on exercise and weight loss. “And if you’re not expending energy, you won’t lose weight. It’s as simple as that.”
In other words, “passive exercise” is a contradiction in terms. No device can help you effortlessly lose weight. And yet people continue to spend enormous amounts of money on this impossible dream. “People are always looking for an easy way out,” McArdle says.
“These electronic abs gadgets don’t do a thing to turn a bulging beer belly into a sleek six-pack stomach,” said former FTC Chairman Timothy Muris. Over the past decade, the government sued the three manufacturers for false advertising. The FTC won a settlement of over $5 million in the lawsuit against Fast Abs and a $1.4 million settlement against the marketers of the AB Energizer. And the courts in Nevada have held five AbTronic defendants liable for $83 million.
The FTC filed yet another complaint against the makers of a similar device called the “Ab Force” belt. A judge upheld the complaint and barred the makers of the Ab Force from claiming the device caused weight loss, well-defined abs, or was an effective alternative to regular exercise.
Here’s a look at two typical, highly promoted devices: The Chi Machine and the AbTronic. You decide if they’ll trim your waist — or your wallet.
The Chi Machine
Advertisements on the Internet make the Chi Machine sound like the biggest medical breakthrough since penicillin. In addition to promoting weight loss, it supposedly boosts energy, strengthens the immune system, eases back pain, and cures allergies. All for slightly less than $500!
After selling and using the machine for more than two years, Linda Basta of Buffalo, New York, is a true believer. She uses it to relax her body, ease aches and pains, and — as a saleswoman — to make money. Many of her customers hope to lose weight, and many are satisfied with the results, she says. “I never tell people they are going to lose weight, but a lot of them do,” she says.
Basta believes the machine burns off pounds by putting the body in a “better state of balance.” The machine also detoxifies the cells and helps cure learning problems, she says.
Up close, the Chi Machine looks less than miraculous. It is essentially a small box with two leg supports. You lie on your back, place your lower legs in the supports, and let the machine rock your body back and forth. (Judging from the advertisements, the machine is especially popular among attractive young women in unitards.)
Some marketers proclaim the Chi Machine is “FDA approved,” meaning that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has given its approval. However, this alleged stamp of approval is misleading. Though therapeutic massagers are regulated by the FDA, they are not necessarily examined by the agency and they don’t have to go through any approval process.
To its credit, the company that manufactures the Chi Machine, Hsin Ten Enterprise USA Inc., doesn’t promote the machine as a slimming device. “There’s no scientific evidence that [the machine] speeds weight loss, and we aren’t allowed to make that claim,” says Chris, a company representative who declined to give her last name. According to the company web site, the machine is useful for “local muscle relaxation and temporary relief from minor muscular aches due to overexertion.”
If you’ve wandered into the world of television infomercials lately, you’ve probably seen a pitch for the AbTtronic, “The Future of Fitness.” In the future, fitness apparently won’t require any actual effort.
The AbTronic is a slender belt that sends jolts of electricity to your muscles. With this device strapped around your midsection, you can feel your muscles twitch, or “exercise” while you read a book, watch TV, or cook dinner. According to the ads, it strengthens muscles, trims the waistline, tones the butt, removes love handles, even flattens a stomach after pregnancy. The actors in the commercial have the bodies to prove it.
The AbTronic is just one of many “electronic muscle stimulators” (or EMS devices) that promise an intense workout without the sweat. An ad for a similar product, the Tone-a-tronic, even claims that 45 minutes of muscle twitching is “equivalent to three hundred situps, one hundred pushups, and one hundred scissor lifts.” If only it were true.
Another device that was heavily advertised was the Ab Circle Pro machine, whose makers claimed that if you used it only three minutes a day, you’d lose 10 pounds in two weeks.
In 2012, however, in the largest Federal Trade Commission settlement involving an exercise machine, Ab Circle Pro promoters agreed to settle deceptive advertising charges by refunding up to $25 million to consumers who bought the device.”
EMS devices may help increase flexibility, but they can’t “tone” problem areas or melt way pounds, McArdle says. While EMS devices really do work muscles — unlike therapeutic massagers — it’s not enough to speed weight loss. “You’d burn more calories by walking around the block,” he says. “These machines aren’t worth the effort.”
McArdle says any device or diet or exercise that promises to remove fat from just one part of the body is doomed to fail. Our genes determine where we store our fat, and no amount of wiggling or jiggling or twitching will change that. McArdle, for one, tends to pile up fat in his belly. If he somehow managed to get rid of every ounce of extra fat in his body, the belly fat would be the last to go. “I’m resigned to the fact that I’ll never have washboard abs,” he says.
In this day and age, it’s a brave admission.
FTC Charges Three Top-selling Electronic Abdominal Exercise Belts with Making False Claims.
Marketer of Electronic Abdominal Exercise Belt Charged with Making False Claims.
Interview with William McArdle, PhD, a professor emeritus at Queens College
Interview with Linda Basta of Buffalo, New York, Chi Machine saleswoman
Interview with Sharon Snider, spokeswoman, Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
Ab Circle Pro marketers settle deceptive marketing case, Los Angeles Times, August 24, 2012.
Passive exercise devices, William T. Jarvis PhD, National Council Against Health Fraud.
Federal Trade Commission. FTC Flexes Its Muscles in Ab Energizer Case. April 2005.

Originally published on, part of the TownNews Content Exchange.
Sign up here to get the latest health & fitness updates in your inbox every week!

The Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Department reported 572 cases for the week ending June 25, a 14% increase over the previous week and the most in a week since the week ending Feb. 12.

The case is in a man in his 30s in Douglas County who is isolating at home.

Desperate families of migrants from Mexico and Central America are seeking word of their loved ones as authorities begin identifying 51 people who died after being abandoned in a tractor-trailer without air conditioning in the sweltering Texas heat. It was the deadliest tragedy to claim the lives of migrants smuggled across the border from Mexico. U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas told The Associated Press that the driver of the truck and two other people were arrested. The bodies were discovered Monday afternoon on the outskirts of San Antonio when a city worker heard a cry for help from a truck parked on a lonely back road.

You and your best friend may have your noses to thank in helping bring you together, a new study suggests.

Although fish and seafood consumption is on the rise in the U.S., the number of Midwest aquaculture farms is declining, and many fish producers say they face challenges getting their produce to consumers. Experts maintain the region could be a strong aquaculture producer, but the number of aquaculture farms in the Midwest has fallen from a decade ago. Joseph Morris, a former director of the North Central Regional Aquaculture Center at Iowa State University, notes problems with marketing, fish processing and high labor costs. Amy Shambach, with the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant, says aquaculture produce from the Midwest also must compete with cheaper, imported seafood.
It’s an unfounded message experts say is repeated again and again: Having an abortion may damage a woman’s mental health, perhaps for years.

Clinics are shutting down abortion services in Texas after the Supreme Court in the nation’s second-largest state blocked an order that briefly allowed the procedure to resume in some cases. It’s the latest development in legal scrambles taking place across the country following the reversal of reversal of Roe v. Wade. The Friday night ruling stopped a three-day-old order allowing abortions to resume up to six weeks into pregnancy. On Saturday, the American Civil Liberties Union said it doubted that any abortions were now being provided in the state. One provider, Whole Woman’s Health, says the ruling forced it to stop offering the procedure in its four Texas clinics.

The Indiana governor’s office racked up more than $500,000 in legal bills for its successful court fight against an attempt by state legislators to give themselves more power to intervene during public health emergencies. Records show the state has paid almost $520,000 to the Indianapolis law firm Lewis Wagner for its representation of Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb. The state Supreme Court ruled unanimously last month as unconstitutional the law aiming to give legislative leaders authority to call the General Assembly into an “emergency session” after the governor declared a statewide emergency. The Republican attorney general’s office, which represented the GOP-dominated Legislature in the dispute, said it did not track the time its staff spent on the case.

Nationwide, workers at clinics that shuttered abortion services are feeling fear and stress as they chart a path forward following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. At what was West Virginia’s only abortion clinic, the days following the historic court ruling have been filled with grief for staff as their new reality sets in. Women’s Health Center of West Virginia Chief Nurse Executive Maness said conversations she had with frantic patients when she had to cancel abortion appointments in her head in an inescapable loop. But staff are determined that the clinic remain open, providing services such as cervical exams and cancer screenings for patients with nowhere else to go.

The White House says President Joe Biden will present the nation’s highest civilian honor to 17 people, including gymnast Simone Biles, actor Denzel Washington and the late Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, with whom Biden served in the Senate. Biden will also recognize Sandra Lindsay, the New York nurse who rolled up her sleeve on live television in December 2020 to receive the first COVID-19 vaccination that was administered in the U.S. Other recipients of the Presidential Medal of Freedom are gun safety advocate Gabrielle Giffords, late Apple co-founder Steve Jobs and U.S. women’s national soccer team player Megan Rapinoe.

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


Tinggalkan Balasan

Alamat email Anda tidak akan dipublikasikan. Ruas yang wajib ditandai *