8 Biggest Fitness Ripoffs

Good for a giggle, but think twice before paying for any of these staples of late-night TV infomercials

Credit: Flickr/Katkamin

Your muscles may not find pleasure in the Shake Weight, but your partner might

Better think twice before slapping down the plastic for any of these fitness products

Although any physical activity is better than none, the benefits gained by some of the home fitness equipment sold on late-night TV could be had otherwise – and you could save yourself the storage space, money and embarrassment of owning something as silly as the Shake Weight.

Infomercials for these ridiculous fitness products show incredibly fit people singing their praises while showing off their dramatic before and after photos.

But why do so many people fall for their totally unbelievable claims, like “3 minutes a day is all it takes” and “in just 6 minutes a day you can get arms you’ll be proud to show off?”

Everyone wants to believe quick fixes exist and the hope of “a lifetime of good health and fitness in only 4 minutes a day” is enough for some people to get their wallets out.

The following fitness rip-offs will inspire giggles, but try to keep your wallet in your pocket. Spoiler alert – you may also want to hold onto your hat for our number one.

8. Power Balance  

Celebrities and athletes, from Kate Middleton to David Beckham, have been seen wearing Power Balance silicone wristbands, which, according to one retailer, are “performance technology that uses holograms embedded with frequencies that react positively with your body’s natural energy field to improve balance, strength, and flexibility,” and retail for about $30.

But after making similar claims, Australian distributors were forced by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to apologize when they revealed that there was no credible scientific evidence for those claims.

On how the product works, the company’s U.S. website now only gives this vague explanation: “The thin polyester film hologram is programmed through a proprietary process, which is designed to mimic Eastern philosophies that have been around for hundreds of years.”

7. Ab Machines

With names like Ab Circle Pro, Ab Doer Twist, Ab Flyer, Ab Lounge and Ab Rocket, there is no shortage of gimmicky ab products on the market costing anywhere from $100 to $200.

Why the demand for these items? Claims like “3 minutes a day is all it takes” attract people who want a quick fix (and who doesn’t?), and the marketing of these products insinuates that by doing just minutes of ab work on the machine each day someone who is significantly overweight can start to look like a fitness model in a matter of weeks.

Of course, a toned, tight tummy isn’t just a matter of doing ab exercises, it hinges on a healthy diet and active lifestyle that includes exercises for the whole body. Doing ab exercises alone doesn’t produce the ripped bodies that appear in these commercials – a fact that is only shared, if at all, in the very fine print. 

6. The Flex Belt

Despite the fact that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration states “no electrical muscle stimulator devices have been cleared at this time for weight loss, girth reduction, or for obtaining ‘rock hard’ abs,” the Flex Belt, $200, claims that you will get strong, toned abs in weeks by using it for “just 30 minutes a day.”

And using the product requires no effort on your part, just “slip on the comfortable toning ab belt” and let it do all the work by sending electrical signals to your abdominal muscles, forcing them to contract. You’d be better off saving your money and sticking to the one thing that will result in weight loss and girth reduction: regular physical activity and a healthy diet.

5. Tony Little Gazelle

What’s the first thing that pops into your mind when you think of fitness infomercials? If you answered Tony Little, you’re not alone. The energetic antics and prolific business ventures of “America’s Personal Trainer” are synonymous with late-night TV in the 1990s, from exercise videos to fitness equipment to many a spoof on TV.

Currently retailing for over $400, Little’s Gazelle, a low-impact cardio machine, is said to have sold over 200 tractor trailer truckloads on New Year’s Eve 1998 alone, and ABC News reported that the Gazelle “accounts for half his sales volume and has brought in nearly $1.5 billion in sales over the years.” You could save your $400 and perform low-impact exercises like swimming or walking for similar results.

4. Range of Motion Machine

The Range of Motion Machine, or ROM, looks like a prop from a science fiction movie. It’s based on the premise of high intensity interval training, or short bursts of strenuous activity that are performed on one of two ends of the machine – a seat with a hand-held bar in the front and a stair-stepping simulator in the back.

The website claims it’s “the last exercise machine you’ll ever need to buy that will give you a lifetime of good health and fitness in only 4 minutes a day.” At almost $15,000, it may be the last exercise machine you’ll ever be able to afford to buy. 

3. Hawaii Chair

The Hawaii Chair’s catch phrases, “Take the work out of your workout” and “If you can sit, you can get fit” seem to suggest that fitness is just one gyrating chair away.

A similar chair, called the Hula Chair (“tones abdominal muscles for a slimmer waist”), was featured on The Ellen DeGeneres Show as a reasonable replacement for a desk chair. Ellen demonstrated the difficulty in taking notes or pouring a glass of water while sitting in the chair, which also claims to “strengthen hip muscles for a shapelier behind.”

If you’re looking to have a laugh while getting a “rhythmic massage” then you may deem the $300 worthwhile. Otherwise, a slimmer waist and shapelier behind can be attained without parting with your money.

2.  Shake Weight

Both the Shake Weight for men and for women guarantee, “Incredible results in just six minutes a day.”

Another guarantee? Looking suggestive, as you vertically shake the weight that “utilizes new workout technology called Dynamic Inertia, which increases muscle activity by more than 300% compared to traditional weights.”

Even though the website claims the product is “seven times more effective at burning muscle energy than a regular dumbbell” it’s also at least seven times more ridiculous than any other workout using a regular dumbbell. So ladies, if you’re ready to go “from flabby to fabulous” – and need a little practice for pleasuring your man – all you need is $30 and six minutes a day.

1.  Osim iGallop

The Osim iGallop is an exercise machine that allows “Horse riding exercise in the comfort of your home,” and “strengthens the back, buttocks, abdominal muscles and thighs.”

Although not currently available, the 80-pound unit (regularly priced at $600 but available second hand for upwards of $50), appears to have been replaced on the Osim website by a similar machine called the uRobic.

Not one to shy away from testing the latest in fitness rip-offs, Ellen DeGeneres also featured the iGallop, donning a cowboy hat and tasseled vest, and declaring: “I really can feel my abs working…uh, it’s not my abs it’s working… wow, this really does get the blood flowing I’ll tell you that right now.”

The billion-dollar home fitness equipment industry is an indication of North America’s obsession with losing weight and building muscle. But many of the available products suggest that the masses are hoping for a quick-fix, unwilling to follow the tried and true methods of healthy eating and regular exercise.  

Spending hundreds of dollars on equipment that produces little results or the same results as much cheaper equipment would be considered a rip-off by most, but if you want to fork over the cash and are motivated by the latest gimmick, then by all means!

Check out some alternative health products and practices, crazy diets and extreme marathons you might also want to avoid.