10 exercise products fitness experts don't recommend

With claims that you can get in shape in just six minutes a day (as advertisement for the Shake Weight states) or tone your abs even while watching TV (the Flex Belt), it's no surprise that the U.S. exercise equipment industry is a $4 billion business. But too often, marketing is triumphing over biology. It takes work, sweat and time to shed those pesky pounds and tone those muscles.

We asked certified fitness trainers and gym owners what they would never use with their clients. Here are the top 10 pieces of equipment they say they wouldn't waste money on:

TrampolineDon't jump for trampolines

In-home trampolines can be loads of fun and they're pretty cheap, starting at about $30 a pop, but you may pay a hefty price for using one. "When used properly, [a trampoline] can be an incredibly effective form of exercise, but it is too easily misused, resulting in knee injuries, ankle injuries, lower back injuries or even wrist injuries as a result of falling or improper use," says David Kirsch, celebrity fitness trainer and wellness coach.

"As an alternative, one can get an effective workout with light weights, high repetition jumping jacks, shadow boxing and/or even light plyometric squats and lunges. These exercises can be done as a circuit and are a safe, effective full body workout," says Kirsch.

The Shake Weight is more hype than science

"The $19.95 Shake Weight involves a light dumbbell that utilizes a vibration to boost muscle growth. In principle, this back and forth motion creates reactive forces throughout your body that engage more muscles to stabilize your body (i.e., the core), but the amount of resistance and the degree of motion is really insufficient to show sustained improvements. You may experience some initial gains, but once the body adapts to that stress, no further improvements will occur using the same device. Your only option is to keep increasing the resistance or leverage, but leverage can hurt the joints," says Fabio Comana MA, MS, exercise physiologist with the American Council on Exercise.

"A regular dumbbell is more effective than the Shake Weight, training muscles to move through a range of motion, not just holding them in one position. Our muscles move joints, so train them accordingly. Besides, dumbbells are cheaper (starting at $5), and you can increase the intensity by changing up the weight without restrictions," he says.

Spot reducers aren't all they're shaped up to be


"Buying any product that promises spot reduction is like ripping up dollar bills and throwing them off the roof," says Liz Neporent, fitness expert, author and founder of Wellness 360. "It is a physiological impossibility to spot reduce. You are genetically programmed to lose fat in a specific pattern. So if you are genetically programmed to hold it in your thighs, that is the last place it is coming off, no matter how many machines you buy to work that area."

Walk away from those Skecher's Tone-Up and Shape-Up shoes

"Skechers did not get to be a big player in the retail shoe market by being bashful. However, the claims made by Sketchers regarding its Tone-Up and Shape-Up shoe lines, which cost $50-$110, totally throws truth-in-advertising overboard. No one anywhere has been able to verify the Skechers claims that these shoes actually help you 'tone up' merely by walking in them," says Mike Torchia, health and wellness expert

"This presumptive feat of shoe engineering runs counter to what every fitness professional knows: resistance exercise that places greater demands on our muscles than usual is still the only way to gain more shape and muscle tone. Of course, if you were to wear lead boots, they will shape up your legs, but they're not quite practical."

Ab toners like Flex Belts can't replace crunches


Originally built for physical therapists to help patients prevent abdominal atrophy, the $199.99 Flex Belts are now available at your local store and online. But "they will not make your total core stronger because you would need to strengthen abs and back and lessen body fat to get a stronger core. When therapists used this machine, it was primarily used as an introductory method to teach patients more effective ways to utilize their abs/lower back/core in order to build strength and build a program to burn the fat around the middle section, which would include dietary education as well as some cardio," says Jen Cassetty, New York City fitness trainer and expert.

"The belt was never meant to be a replacement and if it was, it would be a foolish one, because you can't get toned abs from short bursts of electric pulses. In addition, over time, your abs would get used to the pulses, and therefore are not working out. I actually had a member who would go home after a long day, gel and strap himself into his belt and sit and drink beer on his recliner. No lie. I had to tell him to book a training session with me if he wanted results," says Cassetty.

Kettlebell, exerciseDrop those home edition kettlebells

Kettlebells, which start at $15 each, can be fantastic for toning but also dangerous if not used properly. "As a certified trainer, I myself had to take courses to be able to use kettlebells, but I see them being sold in places like Kmart and Target. If kettlebells are done improperly, the chances of severely hurting your back are high," says Alberto Ortiz, NASM, ACE-certified trainer and founder of Manhattan's WORK: Elite Personal Training.

"Kettlebells should be done under the supervision of a fitness expert who is certified in kettlebell training. This instructor would make sure you keep your back in safe alignment at all times, which will help you activate the appropriate muscles while not putting tension on your spine," says Ortiz.

Sauna suits can burn you

"Sauna suits, which can retail for as little as $10, are still something people revert back to from the old days to aid in weight loss. For years, athletes and exercisers used them to help them lose weight. While they do help you shed water weight, there is no evidence that suggests wearing one will increase the rate at which the body metabolizes body fat. Actually, they are a type of product that if used too much can result in cramping, fainting, dehydration, dizziness, and even heat stroke," says Jim Ryno, celebrity trainer.

Vitamin Water and other sports drinks don't deliver health

Don't be deceived by claims that vitamin and sports drinks are a healthy water substitute. "Once you put any chemical into water, it is no longer water. You must read the labels. It has less than 0.5% of vitamins, minerals, and other stuff. That is very little to be effective, give you energy and boost your immune system. You only receive 13 ounces of carbohydrates in an 8 ounce serving, and those 13 grams are all sugar -- crystalline fructose and sugar cane. A $3.50 bottle has 2.5 servings. So you will consume 32.5 grams of sugar when you drink the bottle," says Kevin Bailey, CSCS, owner of Bailey's Total Fitness, Inc.

"If you are looking to lose body fat, it will be hindered as soon as you drink one of these. Gatorade is even worse, with 34 grams of sugar per bottle. Also, if you are diabetic, these products could possibly cause more harm than good due to the drastic spike in your blood sugar levels when consumed," he says.

$400 Soloflex Whole Body Vibration can shake up trouble


"The science behind shaking your moneymaker while working out to burn more calories is dubious at best. The most credentialed expert seems to be a guy named Peter, a.k.a. The Vibration Professor. Yes, NASA uses similar technology to keep astronauts fit -- because they are in zero gravity and not able to maintain bone density! When you're here on earth in your den with something strapped around your back shaking you like an overzealous auntie, you are at risk for problems, and losing weight won't be one of them. Shaking yourself while doing anything can cause little bothersome issues like brain damage, cartilage damage and spinal damage. Like most of the medical professionals who are not, in my estimation, paid by the Big Vibe companies, I say no thanks. As babies, we can be shaken to death, so as adults, is this same behavior somehow healthy? I think not," says Sadie Nardini, creator of Core Strength Vinyasa Yoga and Ultimate Wellness Expert.

"Get your increased calorie burn from doing something tried and true, like running, walking, swimming, even, yes, I'll say it -- yoga -- a little harder for a little longer," she says.

Wii video game system can hurt as much as it helps

People may be more active because of their $200 Wii, but they are also sustaining "injuries in their knees, back and wrists because of overuse and improper warm-up. It seems that up to ten people a week are being hospitalized with injuries caused by playing Nintendo Wii games, prompting doctors in Britain to issue warnings of the dangers associated with the Wii," says Mike Torchia, health and wellness expert.

"Realize the Wii and its balance board are physical games that require practice before fully exerting yourself. The Wii games are designed for fun, and you must find the proper balance between the fun part and the exertion part. But here is where any fitness claims by Wii run into trouble. The Wii is intended for use mostly by children and teens who have a very casual approach to safety issues. Of course, safety instructions come with the Wii, but reading guidelines for safety is not high on kids' list of priorities. Ultimately, parental supervision comes in play but realistically, too many parents look at video games such as the Wii as a sort of babysitter to keep the kids busy," says Torchia.


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