Lives Made Better | Summer 2011

Are the Latest Fitness Trends the Real Deal?

Mary Nezki spoke at a recent Win with Wellness event in Ludington about the importance of proper footwear for fitness activities.

From Shake Weight to Shape-Ups, there is a never-ending stream of advertisements for these newest fitness products showing men and women with perfectly sculpted bodies. But such results usually come from prolonged and strenuous effort. It’s true that any amount of exercise helps. But if these latest fitness fads are put to the ultimate test—scientific research—how do they measure up?

Shake Up Your Workout

The claim: The Shake Weight promises dramatic results in just six minutes a day. Vibrations from the device are supposed to make muscles work harder during exercise, building strength and power. To use the Shake Weight, you must shake the 2.5-pound plastic dumbbell and then perform a traditional strength-training move.

The research: Most studies showing benefits from vibration training have been done using whole-body platforms under a trainer’s guidance. But the Shake Weight is difficult to use properly, according to the American Council on Exercise. It’s also too light to strengthen muscles, and the directions call for too few reps.

Try instead: For better muscle definition, try dynamic workouts that tone your whole body, like jumping rope, jogging, or dancing.

Perfecting the Push-Up

The claim: The Perfect Push-Up promises to strengthen your upper body in 10 workouts or less. These handgrips rotate with your arm’s natural movement while you do a push-up. This supposedly strengthens your chest, arms, back, and abs while reducing joint strain.

The research: Overall, push-ups are effective. But one study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research didn’t show muscles working harder with the handgrips. The instability may actually trigger wrist strain and increase injury risk.

Try instead: Start your push-ups on the floor or any stable surface. Move your hands closer together to target triceps and shoulders.

How Do Shape-Ups Shape Up?

The claim: So-called toning shoes—products like Shape-Ups and EasyTone—claim to strengthen your calves and hamstrings, burn more calories, improve your posture, and reduce joint stress and pain. The rounded soles create an unstable surface, challenging your feet and legs.

The research: A study by researchers at the American Council on Exercise found no differences in heart rate or calorie burn with toning vs. regular shoes. You may use different muscles in these shoes than you would in regular shoes, which could improve balance. But what works for one person may cause injury to others, such as people with poor balance or with joint or tendon problems.

Try instead: There’s no doubt that good shoes are important for proper exercise, but they don’t have to be trendy to be effective. To amp up your walking routine, carry hand weights.

The bottom line: You can get good results from regular exercise, and it doesn’t have to involve paying for equipment fads.