Following the popularity of our Diet Fads article (thank you everyone!), we’ve decided to explore another trend over the years: crazy fitness fads. You remember those – they left you in awe when you first heard about them, but after months, when you didn’t see any results or realise that you had a weird muscle where there shouldn’t be one, you went, “What was I thinking?!”
The Thigh Master
Remember that infomercial in the late 1980s with the sexy lady squeezing this weird contraption between her thighs? All you have to do is squeeze and squeeze until you have thighs as sculpted as hers. Of course, if your grip isn’t good enough (i.e. if your thighs are pretty much jelly), there’s always the possibility that it’ll fly out, hit you in the face and knock you unconscious. You’re lucky if you managed to get any use of it, but it’s more likely that it’s sitting abandoned in your attic by now, if it hasn’t already killed someone.
The Vibrating Belt/Plate
This was a huge machine with bulky straps in the 1960s that was strangely popular for almost a decade. The straps were worn around the waist and designed to wobble your belly till all the fat simply melted away. Surprise, surprise, that didn’t work. Developers finally realised that body fat isn’t quite like the butter, and the vibrating belt did nothing for weight loss. A different version of has made a comeback in recent years – the Power Plate, which is essentially a vibrating platform upon which you’re supposed to do traditional exercises, like sit-ups and planks. Just ten minutes on it guarantees a boost in strength, power, and muscle tone. I don’t know whether shaking your way to a flatter belly works, but having sat on one of these before, I must say that the pulsating motion is pretty therapeutic.
This one really had me baffled – a bulky contraption that assisted you in doing crunches and sit-ups, exercises that have proven effective for decades without a machine. It claimed to be a sure fire way to a flatter tummy, but other than leaving you hanging off its rims and ogling at the already flat-bellied models on the infomercial, it did nothing to improve regular sit-ups. Yet the Ab Roller became such a hit that it inspired a host of abdominal workout tools, including the Ab Wheel, Ab-Flex and Ab Circle. Don’t worry if you don’t recall any of these; the fad died out eventually when people realised that good ol’ crunches were the way to go.
Aerobics has been around since the last 1960s but was popularised by Jane Fonda in the 1980s with the 23 workout videos she created. By targeting your large muscle groups, this sweat-inducing, high-intensity cardio workout stills remains a great way to get in shape and is by no means laughable. The only difference is that you no longer need to wear ludicrous spandex and bust out strange looking exercises in your living room while following a video of a woman who was shouting instructions through the screen with a smile. Now all you need to do is follow a leotard-wearing instructor in the front.
If singing in the shower and cycling are up your alley, why not try cycle karaoke? This recent fitness trend encourages you to sing on the top of your lungs and spin at the same time. As if your lungs weren’t doing enough work; you now also have to focus on the lyrics flashing across the screen (if your eyes weren’t tearing from your burning thighs) and scream out a decent note or two. In a way, the singing does help distract from the agony of the exercise, allowing you to push your body harder. Some classes even stimulate a nightclub environment, complete with strobe lighting and song requests. So if you fancy belting out to Bon Jovi or Beyoncé while burning calories, this fad might just be for you.
If you dream about going back to a simpler time when you were a baby, this trend might just be for you. No, you won’t be throwing tantrums or playing with rattles; instead, you will be crawling your way to better core strength and improved posture. Encouraged by the training system called Original Strength, crawling allows you to hit the reset button on your central nervous system and reverting to mobility patterns you learned as a baby. It requires no equipment, so the next time you find yourself falling asleep at your desk, why not crawl around and workout instead?
Why stick to regular, boring Pilates when you could simultaneously be a skater girl? Yup, you read right. Skateboarding Pilates was popularised by French celebrity trainer, Raphael Doub, who added a skateboard to moves like squats and lunges to push your body further. Using a skateboard while doing Pilates moves can help with stability and balance while strengthening your core by activating muscles you normally would not. Videos abound on YouTube, both for entertainment and fitness purposes.
If you’ve ever fantasised about being a gorgeous mermaid like Ariel and swimming in the ocean, then here’s your chance. And no we’re not just talking about a Halloween costume. The latest fad in aqua fitness straps you into a tight mermaid suit to give you a good workout entailing (pun intended) a fusion of swimming, core and aerobics workouts. Moving in a tail is counterintuitive to your body’s natural movement, forcing you to work on your lower body and core strength. It takes hard work to move with the grace and poise of Ariel in water. We can’t promise you a handsome prince at the end of it, but you might walk away with a beautiful booty!
The Horse Riding Fitness Ace Power
We saved the best for last. If you thought sitting on top a vibrating platform was more than a little evocative, this gem of a machine from Korea provided an even more suggestive way of getting fit. The Ace Power pledges to help you shed weight while you look like you were doing it; horseback riding that is. Needless to say, it was nothing like actual horseback riding, which can be a powerful endurance workout. The Ace Power on the other hand, is dependent on gravity and boring, pointless resistance. Not to mention possibly risky too, especially if you fall over and break something. Videos of the infomercial do promise a good laugh though.
Other Fads Worth Mentioning
Magic Weight Loss Pills: Want to gorge yourself without exercise and still lose weight? An assortment of weight loss pills that promise you just that by popping one every day. These dietary supplements make big claims of “blocking fats” and “increasing fat metabolism”, but there has been no scientific research backing these up. Some of these even have documented to have adverse side effects, like the Slim 10 diet pills controversy in Singapore years ago, which left users with liver failure. Don’t know about weight loss, but one thing you’re bound to lose with these is your money.
Toning Shoes: You might have seen these shoes with their curved soles that might topple you over every step you take. Not only do they make you feel generally unstable and look like orthopaedic shoes for granny, but they also have not shown to have any weight loss or calorie burning benefits. Stick with regular track shoes and exercise, you’ll probably look and feel better.
Sauna Suits: They look like big black trash bags. But they’re not. These waterproof garments were intended to enable its wearer to perspire profusely. Though this fad had been dissed for being a hoax, recently some studies have found that athletes can reap serious performance benefits while training in sauna suits, which include an increase in plasma volume and better ability to endure the heat. However, weight loss benefits are questionable; weight shed is usually gained by just by consuming more water. Not to mention the obvious dangers of overheating and passing out while bench-pressing.
Dumbbell Utensils: Feeling guilty about stuffing your face? Why not stay in shape while eating then! This three-piece fully functional cutlery set consists of dumbbells with a fork, knife and spoon attached to each end. So burn your calories away with each bite! Or try to at least, depending on how much food is on your plate.
Beware the Scams
If a product makes grand claims of having a miraculous way to burn your fat away, like through a magic formula or some such vagary, ignore it, even if a celebrity is endorsing it. It’s not likely true. Real results take time, and sustaining them takes a whole lot of effort through a persistent exercise and dietary regime, which is what we teach through our Metabolic Health Programme. Through trial and error (and a little astute decision-making), you’ll eventually settle on a routine that keeps you healthy and happy.
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Photo Credit: TimeOut, Geekologie, Daily Mail, This is Why I’m Broke.