Infomercial Investigation

December 22, 2008 2:00:14 PM PST
No doubt you've seen the infomercials for fitness equipment that claims to burn fat and build muscle, giving you the body you always wanted. The air climber claims that you'll lose 10 pounds or 10 inches in 10 days. And the $50 bean promises to get you lean. Or how about the $160 red exerciser's claim?

Consumer Reports just evaluated 10 infomercial exercise devices.

Tester Todd Young says, interesting to note, the infomercials make little or no mention of the diet plans that come with most.

"Many of the infomercials focus on how great the equipment is for weight loss. Of course, if you follow the low-calorie diet, which most products include, you'd lose weight," says Young.

So to determine if any of these machines are worth getting, Consumer Reports focused on the workout they deliver. Testers used an instrument to monitor the number of calories burned during a workout.

For abdominal and bun-and-thigh machines, testers measured how hard muscles worked in targeted areas.

After using an infomercial exerciser, for comparison, panelists did exercises that required no special equipment.

The $140 air climber claims it can burn up to 950 calories per hour. "Our test results show that you would have to weigh over 300 pounds to burn that many calories in an hour. For a typical 165-pound person, you'd burn about 450, not 950 calories," Young says.

Tests show the $180 leg magic professional did a good job on inner thighs, but simple lunges will better strengthen three additional leg muscles.

The bean's "3-in-one super rock" exercise only challenged muscles about the same as floor crunches with a pelvic tilt.

So what's the real skinny? Young says, "With most of these products, you can get similar or better results by doing exercises that don't require any equipment."

If you think you'd be motivated using an infomercial exercising device, Consumer Reports says one to consider is the $150 urban rebounder. It's a mini-trampoline that provides the highest calorie-burning rate of any of the equipment tested, similar to going for a jog.


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