Could those ‘as seen on TV’ machines actually work?
IT'S the 'as seen on TV' promise that has many of us sucked in. A toned, taut body with minimal effort, time or cost.
The promise that in a matter of weeks we can achieve a rippling six pack and buns of steel. And all for a one-off limited price.
Such obscurities include machines like vibrating plates, the ab circle pro, the thigh master and even vibration belts.
While most of us are pretty sceptical of the huge claims made by these companies, could some of them actually work?
A new study published by the Endocrine Society, found that whole body vibration actually mimics the muscle and bone health benefits of regular exercise. Therefore, using something like a vibrating plate is as good as a cardio session.
"Our study is the first to show that whole-body vibration may be just as effective as exercise at combating some of the negative consequences of obesity and diabetes," said the study's first author, Meghan E. McGee-Lawrence, PhD, from Augusta University.
"While whole body vibration did not fully address the defects in bone mass of the obese mice in our study, it did increase global bone formation, suggesting longer-term treatments could hold promise for preventing bone loss as well."
In another study, Washington State University found that subjects' maximal heart rates were jacked up higher when doing VersaClimber intervals than when running intervals on a treadmill. Similarly, the number of calories burned was significantly greater.
Despite these studies, other findings have shown that these machines can't compare to more traditional forms of exercise.
While the Ab Circle Pro does a good job of training your obliques at the sides of your waist, a study conducted by the American Council on Exercise in 2014 showed that the machine wasn't so effective at working the front sheath of your abs.
The study concluded that the traditional crunch provided a better workout for this sixpack muscle, as did a decline bench curl up or a captain's chair crunch.
Emma Thompson is a personal trainer and founder of Mums Empowered. She says that, while some of these machines may be better than others, most of them are "gimmicky" and unlikely to generate the claimed results.
"The typical marketing behind them is geared towards a 'quick fix' or 'magic pill approach', which is deeply flawed and misleading when it comes to true health, fitness results and longevity," she says.
"To generate the results they refer to, namely weight loss, exercise is only ever part of the picture, not the whole. Weight loss is largely about nutrition, which requires changing habits, being disciplined and a great deal of organisation and planning."
Despite this, some people have had success with these machines and would be confident to recommend them to others.
Tracey Phillips has been using an Ab Circle Pro for some time and has been pleased with the results.
"It definitely helped me get toned. I'm due with my second baby soon, and I can't wait to get back on it and create some definition," she tells me. "I suffer from a bit of lower back pain and had no trouble using this at all."
Similarly, Charlotte Patterson has been surprised at the positive impact the vibration plate has had on her body.
"I use it around three times a week for 10 minutes at a time," she says. "It's not for weight loss or exercise, but more to help me with my leg and muscles soreness. For that I think it's worth it, but not just on its own to rule out other exercise."
So, should we really be spending our money on these devices?
"It depends on the type of the machine," advises Thompson. "The resistance based machines that incorporate strengthening exercises can be effective if engaged in regularly, as are some cardio machines.
"But, if it's an ab-roller, a vibrating plate, or any type of machine that doesn't require a great deal of exertion, then I'd say you'd be better to save your money and energy. Go for a walk outside instead. It's free and the fresh air has amazing health benefits."