The Pitch: "Get fit with a whole new twist."
April 2009. The CardioTwister is a compact stair-stepping machine with handlebars that swivel horizontally. In high-energy TV infomercials, the manufacturer claims that the CardioTwister will help you shed pounds and inches from your waistline by combining an aerobic workout with an included diet plan.
Reviews, however, say that the CardioTwister exercise machine doesn't live up to the hype. The most common complaint is that the machine feels unstable. Numerous owners complain that the CardioTwister makes a clanking sound during use. According to some reviewers, assembly takes far longer than the 15 minutes promised in the instructional manual, and there are reports of broken digital readout devices and loose handlebars. A major consumer magazine tested this product and found that the CardioTwister burns about as many calories as walking on a treadmill at a relatively leisurely pace, but that traditional exercises are better than the CardioTwister at toning muscles.
A small number of people who buy the CardioTwister exercise machine say it provides a fun workout, but the majority of owners say that they don't intend to keep the machine. We read numerous complaints that the manufacturer, Tristar, is slow to respond requests to return or replace defective units. In some cases, it takes weeks to receive a return label, and reviewers say it's a hassle to disassemble and repackage the 37-pound metal machine. This 48-inch-tall machine, which is not collapsible, comes with a diet plan and 30-minute workout DVD.
The CardioTwister has been included in testing at Consumer Reports, and we read more than 60 user reviews of it at HSN.com, where it's an as-seen-on-TV staple. We also found a handful of reviews at Buzzillions.com and Amazon.com. The CardioTwister is also the subject of a discussion among contributors to SparkPeople, a fitness site.
Consumer Reports tests nine fitness machines marketed via infomercial, including the CardioTwister. Testers compare the number of calories burned and the effectiveness of the exercises as compared to more conventional workout moves. Diet plans that accompany each machine are also rated.
Review: Rating the Infomercial Fitness Machines, Editors of ConsumerReports.org
At HSN.com, the CardioTwister exercise machine earns an average rating of just 1.6 stars out of five in more than 65 reviews. The majority of owners are very unhappy with this machine, particularly with noise and build quality. Numerous owners say that the motion of the handlebars is jerky, and there are some reports of hard-to-push pedals. Reviewers also complain about Tristar's customer service, which is said to be slow.
Review: Reviews of the Brenda DyGraf CardioTwister Pro System with Workout DVD, Contributors to HSN.com
About 10 owner reviews posted at Buzzillions award the CardioTwister exercise machine an average of 3.4 stars out of five -- a more positive result than the generally poor reviews posted at HSN.com. Here, most owners say that the CardioTwister works, is easy to use, gets the blood pumping and targets the legs (if not the abs). However, a couple users complain that it's noisy, and one says that the build quality is poor.
Review: Reviews of the Cardio Twister, Contributors to Buzzillions.com
At Amazon.com, the CardioTwister exercise machine earns an average of 1.5 stars from just a handful of users. One reviewer says that the machine is easy and fun to use, but the build quality is sub-par. Two reviewers say that the machine is jerky -- both note that they have returned it. One notes that the handlebars cannot be adjusted to fit very tall individuals.
Review: Reviews of Cardio Twister, Contributors to Amazon.com
SparkPeople is a site that aims to "inspire millions of people to reach their goals and lead healthier lives." The site offers free nutrition and health trackers and other diet tools. A contributor to the user forums asks for opinions about the Cardio Twister, and contributors describe their experiences with it. One owner says the Carido Twister works to tone the legs and buttocks, but one owner says that the company failed to send a complete machine, and the other says it took "over 2 hours to put together" and does not recommend it.
Review: Has Anyone Tried the Cardio Twister?, Contributors to SparkPeople.com
6. Exercise Equipment Expert.com
The anonymous "expert" behind this blog, which offers reviews of fitness equipment, claims to be independent, but does not provide credentials or explain the methodology behind each review. Although the reviewer describes the Cardio Twister as a "pie in the sky fitness product," there's no evidence that the product was actually tested. However, in the comments section, the reviewer claims to have tested the machine in person and found it unsatisfactory.
Review: Review of the Cardio Twister System, Editors of ExerciseEquipmentExpert.com, Oct. 9, 2008
Invented by an ex-Navy SEAL, the Perfect Pushup is a pair of rotating handles designed to augment this most basic of calisthenics. The majority of reviews we looked at laud the Perfect Pushup's effectiveness and versatility. Most users say how much more comfortable pushups turned out to be with the aid of the device's swivel handles. A large number mention that they've incorporated the device into their regular workout routines and feel the device helps stimulate more muscle groups than the ordinary pushups. Convenient storage and portability are also big advantages with many users. Another plus is that they don't cost much.
Very few reviews we looked at had anything at all negative to say about the Perfect Pushup. Of those negative reviews, about half have to do with concerns about further straining an injured or recovering rotator cuff. This is a legitimate concern to be sure, and potential users obviously should use common sense and proceed cautiously if convalescing from shoulder injury. The other caution we read is that the claim they'll "get you ripped" is exaggerated; while pushups are a great workout move, they aren't going to build muscle mass like weight lifting will.
The only other complaints we saw were about pricing for the Perfect Pushup. The device is now available online and at retailers like Dick's Sporting Goods and Wal-Mart, as well as from telemarketers. The pricing varies from about $20 to $40, but reviewers caution that consumers may not receive the same extras, depending on where you buy the Perfect Pushup; some buyers say their purchase didn't include the instructional DVD. Others say the versions sold for around $20 at Walmart are of lesser quality than the pricier ones available online through the manufacturer or at sporting goods stores.
ConsumerReports.org reviews the Perfect Pushup, but the article is limited. We found more detailed testing at AnswerFitness.com, where a self-proclaimed "fitness nerd" thoroughly tests the Perfect Pushup and details his results and opinion. Pittsburgh news affiliate WTAE also gives the Perfect Pushup a workout and deems it a success. Fitness guru Chad Davies posts a well-written critique on his website Exercise-Equipment-Review.com, but he doesn't discuss how he tested it. We found also reviews from more than 500 consumers at Amazon.com.
ConsumerReports.org's editors assemble two panels to evaluate various as-seen-on-TV exercise products. The Perfect Pushup is among the products studied. The first panel's users were asked to report on how well they felt a product lived up to its advertisement. In a second panel, the editors compared users' muscle activity and calories burned while both working out with the Perfect Pushup and doing traditional pushups.
Review: Get Fit? Get Real., Editors of ConsumerReports.org, January 2009
This self-proclaimed "fitness nerd" publishes reviews of exercise equipment, among other things. He posts an exhaustively thorough review of the Perfect Pushup, summarized in a helpful bullet list of pros and cons. He finds the product sturdy and well constructed and says that the ergonomic design protects against wrist strain and the rotation may protect against shoulder strain. He admits that they are more challenging than a standard pushup, although he's careful to say that pushups won't build a lot of muscle mass. On the down side, he finds the price a bit high for what they are, and says the workout plans included are a bit limited.
Review: Perfect Pushup Review: Is the Perfect Pushup Hit or Hype?, "Matt", Nov. 16, 2008
In this TV segment, the Perfect Pushup is tested by the station's meteorologist and a fitness specialist. They conclude that it does what it claims, but you don't need the Perfect Pushup to do a pushup effectively.
Review: Test It Tuesday Returns: The Perfect Pushup, Andrew Stockey, Jan. 29, 2008
4. Exercise-Equipment- Review.com
A certified personal trainer, nutritionist and test engineer, Chad Davies also runs a website dedicated to reviewing exercise equipment. Davies strongly recommends the Perfect Pushup. The swivel handles, he says, are helpful to build muscle and reduce strain on joints. He mentions the device is particularly suited to those with injured or weak wrists, as well as expressing concerns that the device's plastic construction may be unfounded.
Review: Perfect Pushup Review, Chad Davies
Nicholas Deleon says the Perfect Pushup works well because he is able to increase his pushup repetitions quite a bit. He concludes, "I can think of far worse ways to spend $30."
Review: Review: Yes, the Perfect Pushup, Nicholas Deleon, March 2, 2009
Nearly all of the roughly 600 user reviews for the Perfect Pushup are mainly positive, awarding an average score of 4.5 stars out of 5. Dozens say it's the best piece of exercise equipment they've ever owned. A couple of posts discuss quality differences between the $20 version of this product that Walmart sells and the $40 one available online or at sporting goods stores. Some think that the Walmart version is more cheaply made. Some users with a history of shoulder problems caution that the device places undue stress on the rotator cuff.
Review: Perfect Pushup -- Original, Contributors to Amazon.com
The Perfect Situp -- from the same company that makes the Perfect Pushup (*Est. $30) -- is a body-length device designed to be used while lying on the floor. Insert your head in one end and your feet in the other, and the Perfect Situp allows you to perform, well, the perfect sit-up -- signaled by a clicking sound. The manufacturer's website claims that the Perfect Situp works both upper and lower regions of the abs, and that "unlike traditional sit-ups and crunches, the Perfect Situp gets you in the perfect position to perform an abdominal curl while leg and back blades intensify the movement."
Reviews of the Perfect Situp are mixed. GadgetReview.com reviewed Jeff Bordeaux says this product may be appropriate for beginners who don't know enough about basic technique to perform effective sit-ups on their own, but not for individuals who already know how to do a sit-up. When Indianapolis TV station WXIN runs the Perfect Situp past two exercise professionals, both say the device works as advertised but they disagree on whether it's really necessary. At StuffWeLike.com, a reviewer demonstrates the product and says that while it does work, there are many facets that can be improved upon, such as the resistance blades and complex assembly process. Meanwhile, owners posting to Amazon.com and Walmart.com are split down the middle: Half say the Perfect Situp works as advertised (even though it may not be appropriate for tall people), while the other half say it's not durable and they wish they hadn't purchased it.
In this detailed review complete with photographs, Jeff Bordeaux tries out the Perfect Situp. He allows that it might be a good purchase for beginners, but says it's awkward to store, sometimes clumsy to use and makes an annoying clicking sound. And "for those of you that already have an established workout, the Perfect Situp isn't really going to open your eyes to some magical abs oasis."
Review: The Perfect Situp Review, Jeff Bordeaux, Oct. 27, 2010
2. WXIN (Indianapolis)
This Fox affiliate reporter asks two local trainers, Matt and Emily, to test the Perfect Situp, and both agree that the product does engage the core. Matt says it isn't "perfect" as the name of the product suggests, but that it does work as advertised. Emily says that while it does work, she believes it's more worthwhile to educate yourself on proper sit-up technique than spend $100 on a gadget.
Review: Does it Work: Perfect Situp, Sherman Burdette
In this video review, David Rodriguez describes the process of using the Perfect Situp. He begins with assembly and says the instructions are very hard to understand. He notes that the cushion is soft and comfortable, but that the mat can easily rip if the user isn't careful. The 6-foot-1-inch Rodriguez says he fits on the device when extended to its greatest length, and he notes there are two pressure points on the Perfect Situp that may cause some discomfort. Last, he mentions that the leg extenders feature 10 pounds of resistance and that added resistance of either 20 or 30 pounds can be found in blades sold separately.
Review: Perfect Situp, David Rodriguez, Dec. 27, 2010
Most of the owners posting here say the Perfect Situp works as advertised, and they appreciate the clicking sound that indicates when they've execused a proper sit-up. However, one skeptic notes that "the Perfect Situp adds nothing to what you can do simply by lying on the floor and going through the same exercises without the device," while another owner says the unit clicks even if you perform a less-than-perfect sit-up.
Review: Perfect Situp Perfect Fitness, Contributors to Walmart.com
The dozen or so reviews of the Perfect Situp on Amazon.com are split down the middle: Half of the owners posting here love this product -- though there are some complaints that it's not appropriate for tall people -- while the other half say it's "garbage," a "waste of money," a "neck buster" and that it falls apart during use. Other owners say they are disappointed that they had to buy separate leg pieces if they wanted to up their workout resistance.
Review: Perfect Situp, Contributors to Amazon.com
The Shake Weight has gained a lot of notoriety -- not for its effectiveness, but for its suggestive infomercial. It's sparked countless YouTube spoofs and TV parodies, including a demonstration on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show." Even some favorable reviewers say it can be embarrassing to use in front of others.
Essentially, the Shake Weight is a 2.5-pound handheld dumbbell with springs at each end. Originally marketed to women, it's supposed to tone arms and shoulders. (There is also a Shake Weight for Men -- identical except for a 5-pound weight.) According to its manufacturer, the Shake Weight is based on a concept known as dynamic inertia, which means shaking a weight is more effective at toning muscles than lifting. The Shake Weight includes an instructional DVD that features a guided, six-minute workout.
The main question, though, is whether the Shake Weight workout is effective. Press releases cite results from two studies -- one by a commercial laboratory, the other by a San Diego State University researcher -- that claim Shake Weight burns more calories and engages the arm muscles better than free weights do. However, these studies probably should be taken with a grain of salt because they are being used for commercial purposes, rather than appearing in a non-commercial, peer-reviewed academic journal. What's more, the studies seem to be comparing the Shake Weight with the use of a standard 2.5-pound free weight. A traditional weightlifting regimen for toning arms would gradually increase the weight well beyond 2.5 pounds.
Quite a few reviewers criticize the Shake Weight's effectiveness as limited, instead recommending traditional weightlifting with a full range of dumbbells to build and strengthen muscle -- including reviews at WalletPop.com and Wired. Claims that the Shake Weight creates lean arms also come in for criticism, since "lean" implies fat loss. The Shake Weight is not a total weight-loss solution. We also found a few complaints at RipOffReport.com and WorldOfDiets.com about poor customer service when buying the Shake Weight online -- including refusal to refund shipping charges for a damaged product.
Some do find the Shake Weight to be convenient, however, and it earns a positive rating from a fitness expert at ABC'S "Good Morning America." She recommends leaving it in a convenient location so you can use it often throughout the day. Overall, using the Shake Weight is certainly better than not exercising your arms at all. The main caveat is not to expect too much from it.
1. Good Morning America
The Shake Weight is one of five fitness products evaluated in this segment of ABC'S "Good Morning America." Tester Becky Worley gives the Shake Weight a grade of B-plus, saying that though you wouldn't want your kids to watch you using it (apparently because of the sexual innuendoes), the device does exercise the shoulder and entire arm and is convenient to use in your spare time.
Review: Grading Infomercial Exercise Products, Becky Worley, Jan. 21, 2010
Certified personal trainer Sal Marinello points out that just because you can feel something -- fatigue, soreness or muscle burn -- doesn't mean you're performing an effective exercise. He also notes that the studies that supposedly support the Shake Weight's claims are not available for scrutiny.
Review: The Healthy Skeptic: The Shake Weight Gets a "Do Not Buy" Recommendation, Sal Marinello, June 26, 2010
Tester Lisa Kaplan Gordon reports that the Shake Weight hurt her neck and was awkward to hold and use. Ultimately, the Shake Weight fails to wow her and it gets WalletPop.com's lowest Buy-O-Meter rating.
Review: Shake Weight Review: As Seen on TV Flop, Lisa Kaplan Gordon, Aug. 12, 2010
Although they poke plenty of fun, Wired editors take this evaluation of the Shake Weight seriously. However, reviewer Steven Leckert says it doesn't raise the heart rate much compared to regular weight lifting and did not produce any muscle soreness.
Review: The Shake Weight Review: Hilarious But Useless, Steven Leckert, Aug. 26, 2010
5. KIDK (Idaho Falls, Id.)
Reporter Tommy Noel interviews a body builder, Kendall Cameron, who tries the full set of Shake Weight exercises and judges the device useless: "There's no tension on the muscle whatsoever." Other body builders at the gym agree that for serious muscle strengthening, the Shake Weight is not a good solution.
Review: Does it Really Work? -- Shake Weight, Tommy Noel, Feb. 11, 2010
A Canadian doctoral candidate studying the effects of exercise on obesity criticizes the Shake Weight as based on ineffective "vibration training." He also probes the credentials of the experts cited in the Shake Weight infomercial, finding them quite unimpressive. (We checked out the credentials of the studies cited on the Shake Weight website, however, and they're valid.)
Review: The Shake Weight: Spot Reducing Arm Fat Through the Science of Dynamic Inertia!, Peter Janiszewski, Ph.D., Aug. 5, 2009
Over a hundred reviews of the Shake Weight at Amazon.com result in a mediocre average rating, with as many 1- and 2-star scores as 5-star raves. Some of the negative reviews warn of neck injury from doing the exercises on the included DVD.
Review: Shake Weight Dumbbell, Contributors to Amazon.com
This user-written review acknowledges the limitations and hilarious aspects of the Shake Weight, but does recommend it as likely to get rid of "triceps wiggle" and accomplish some toning. Another user comments on this site that the two triceps exercises on the DVD are important to do in order to get results.
Review: As Seen on TV Shake Weight Reviews, Contributors to Viewspoints.com
This balanced review notes that the Shake Weight is convenient and doesn't require much space to use. The author is skeptical about the effectiveness of a large number of rapid contractions, however, compared with the tried and true method of gradually increasing the weight lifted.
Review: Essential Shake Weight vs. Dumbbell Exercises -- Which is Better?, Editors of ExerciseBallAbs.com, Jan. 5, 2010
10. Ripoff Report.com
This owner-written review reports that the company didn't honor its promise to refund shipping charges or pay return shipping for a Shake Weight that arrived damaged.
Review: Report: Shake Weight, "UNT Momma", Jan. 8, 2010
Over 200 comments here cover the gamut from enthusiasm to skepticism. Several people report serious customer service problems with ordering the Shake Weight online.
Review: Shake Weight Reviews (For Men and For Women), Contributors to WorldOfDiets.com
This reviewer criticizes the Shake Weight commercial for implying that it's possible to spot-reduce fat and for claiming that significant results can be achieved in only six minutes a day. However, it should be noted that the reviewer is also promoting his own book on losing fat.
Review: The Shake Weight, "Alan", Jan. 25, 2010
This press release reports that computer modeling of the Shake Weight by a commercial lab finds that it uses more energy than exercising with a regular 2.5-pound weight. For example, an average woman would burn 150 calories in a six-minute session with a Shake Weight, compared with 26.4 calories with a free weight.
Review: Leading Research Company Lifemodeler, Inc. Releases Study Proving Effectiveness of Shake Weight, Life Modeler, Feb. 12, 2010
The Shake Weight for Men doubles the weight of the original 2.5-pound dumbbell designed for women. According to claims on the manufacturer's site, using the men's version for just six minutes a day can strengthen, build and define chest, shoulder and arm muscles. As with the original Shake Weight, the manufacturer says the springs at each end of the dumbbell give it "dynamic inertia" that fires up muscles much more than ordinary weight-lifting -- up to 240 contractions a minute. An upper body workout DVD is included with the Shake Weight for Men.
Although the ads for the women's version say using the Shake Weight tones muscles without adding bulk, the heavier men's version is supposed to build muscle. Ads for both versions cite the results of lab tests conducted by Daniel Cipriani at San Diego University, showing that the Shake Weight causes muscles to contract faster than they do when using regular dumbbell. We emailed him to confirm the study results, and Chris Woolston interviewed Cipriano for a review of the Shake Weight for Men published in the Los Angeles Times.
Quite a few owners reviewing the Shake Weight for Men at Amazon.com confirm that using it for brief workouts does give muscles a pumped, burning sensation right away. However, Cipriano -- in agreement with several other exercise experts -- recommends a regular weightlifting program for better results overall. A traditional and more successful approach to building and strengthening muscles would gradually increase the weight far beyond five pounds. The bottom line: The Shake Weight for Men might give your arms some minor toning but don't expect miracles.
We found three reviews of the Shake Weight for Men based on personal tests by the authors. Chris Woolston's review at the Los Angeles Times tops our list, because it includes information from exercise experts as well. The review at ColumbusAlive.com, a weekly entertainment publication for Columbus, Ohio, discusses both the Shake Weight and the workout featured in the included DVD. A review at Wired specifies the product's pros and cons. An article by Johann Verheem at Inc. magazine is also on hands-on testing. We found skeptical reviews of both the men's and women's versions at WalletPop.com, WorldOfDiets.com and HealthAndFitnessAdvice.com, plus ratings and comments from about 30 owners at Amazon.com.
1. Los Angeles Times
The author reports on his own experience trying the Shake Weight; he says his arm muscles were exhausted after just 30 seconds. He also consults two exercise experts, both of whom agree that the Shake Weight is not a substitute for a regular weight-lifting program. David Swain, a professor of exercise science at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., is quite skeptical about the Shake Weight. Daniel Cipriani, whose lab tests confirm that the device gets muscles fired up, agrees that it's more useful for brief breaks than for six-minute arm workouts.
Review: Weighing in on the Shake Weight, Chris Woolston, May 10, 2010
2. Columbus Alive
In this weekly publication based in Columbus, Ohio, Jesse Tigges shares his own experience using the Shake Weight, and he provides useful details about the six-minute workout featured in the DVD that comes with it. He does the complete routine three times for a full 20 minutes, but discovers "That next-day burn that usually accompanies a good workout was sorely lacking."
Review: We Tried It!: Shake Weight, Jesse Tigges, Aug. 19, 2010
This review is based on personal tests conducted by the author. Leckart concludes that the Shake Weight and its exercise DVD have potential for hilarious entertainment, but not for serious exercise. Using the Shake Weight as directed can result in some sensations of muscle tension, but it doesn't come close to matching a regular weight-lifting regime -- either for raising heart rate or inducing the eventual muscle soreness that usually indicates a successful workout.
Review: The Shake Weight Review: Hilarious But Useless, Steven Leckart, Aug. 26, 2010
4. Inc. magazine
Christine Lagorio interviews the inventor of the Shake Weight, Johann Verheem, who discusses the evolution of the device as well as its amazing burst of publicity. Verheem says he's not at all dismayed by the spoofs on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" and "Saturday Night Live" -- instead, he finds them hilarious. He says part of the point of the Shake Weight is to make a device that catches people's attention, adding "Part of our job is to get them motivated to exercise."
Review: Shaking America By Storm, Christine Lagorio, Aug 16, 2010
This brief review of both the men's and women's Shake Weight models concludes that "shaking just about anything for six minutes a day is a better workout than lying still on a couch." The reviewer says she consulted several personal trainers, all of whom say it's a waste of money. Kim Sanborn, a trainer based in Virginia, says the Shake Weight is not heavy enough to tone muscles or increase heart rates successfully.
Review: Shake Weight Review: As Seen on TV Flop, Lisa Kaplan Gordon, Aug. 12, 2010
This skeptical review of both the men's and women's versions of the Shake Weight notes the discrepancies in the ads -- preventing bulk for women, but adding bulk for men -- and doubts that the difference in weight could possibly achieve this. The fixed weight is another drawback, but the reviewer notes that some users do report results and that using the Shake Weight is "better than not exercising at all." More than 170 readers add comments, and feedback is pretty split: Some say they notice a difference in their arms, while others say the Shake Weight is a dud.
Review: Shake Weight Reviews (For Men and For Women), Staff of WorldOfDiets.com
A certified personal trainer says that just because you can feel something -- fatigue, soreness, or a "burn" -- doesn't mean you're performing an effective exercise.
Review: The Healthy Skeptic: The Shake Weight Gets a Do Not Buy Recommendation, Sal Marinello, Nov. 3, 2009
The Shake Weight for Men earns largely positive ratings here from the 50 or so owners reviewing it, with about 75 percent saying they're happy with it. Detractors find it hard to use as directed, while others say that its effectiveness is very limited. However, many users say they can feel their muscles burn after using the Shake Weight. One unsatisfied user says he never received a refund on return shipping (though it's promised on the site).
Review: Shake Weight for Men Dumbbell, Contributors to Amazon.com
The Slendertone Abdominal Toning Belt is a battery-powered fitness device that emits electric signals designed to tone your abs by causing the muscles to tense and flex. If used daily for 20 to 30 minutes -- in combination with a healthy diet and other forms of physical exercise -- the manufacturer claims you will see results in eight weeks. Models are available for men and women; both include a controller with four programs, three AAA batteries, three gel pads and a travel pouch.
Based on the reviews we've found, the Slendertone works -- as long as you have realistic expectations. As one user points out in his Amazon review, this device isn't intended for folks who are grossly overweight and looking for an easy weight-loss solution, but rather for relatively fit users who simply want to tone their abs. Other reviewers say you can't expect results after one or two days; you have to use the Slendertone every day for several months. No reputable source we found claims that Slendertone will help you to lose weight; that requires diet and exercise.
Reviewers say there are a couple of drawbacks to the Slendertone. In a test conducted by the British newspaper Daily Mail, a test subject says the Slendertone Abdominal Toning Belt is very uncomfortable to use. We also found several complaints from users who say the product simply doesn't work, as well as grumbles about the steep cost of replacement gel pads (*Est. $30).
1. Daily Mail (United Kingdom)
This British newspaper asks three test subjects to try out three different types of electronic toning equipment, two of them made by Slendertone. One tester finds that the Slendertone Abdominal Toning Belt is very uncomfortable to wear, saying "one thing it did help me do was run more, as any alternative to the belt was preferable!"
Review: Electric Toning Equipment: Tried and Tested, Charlotte Harding
Most of the users participating in this thread have good things to say about the Slendertone Abdominal Toning Belt; one owner points out that "you have to do the required sessions for the number of times per week, and the pads do need replacing."
Review: Slendertone Belt, Contributors to MoneySavingExpert.com
3. KYW (Philadelphia)
Reporter Stephanie Stahl talks with a local personal trainer who endorses the Slendertone belt. She also talks with physician, who says devices that use electrical stimulation have little benefit, and with a mother who says she experienced some positive results with the belt. Stahl's conclusion: Slendertone might help you lose weight, but so will regular exercise.
Review: Health: A Workout Free Way To Tone Your Abs, Stephanie Stahl, Sept. 25, 2007
Many of the users posting here are pleased with the Slendertone Abdominal Toning Belt, saying this product works best if you don't expect miracles. Others complain about disappointing results, defective units out of the box, or the cost of replacing the gel pads (Est. $30) -- on top of the $150 retail price of the belt itself.
Review: Slendertone Abdominal Toning System, Contributors to HSN.com
Most of the three dozen or so owners posting here are pleased with the Slendertone Abdominal Toning Belt, though there are a few complaints about ineffectiveness. One reviewer points out that Slendertone isn't appropriate for folks who are extremely overweight, but may benefit users who are already in fairly good shape and want to strengthen their abs.
Review: Slendertone Men's Flex Abdominal Toning System Belt, Contributors to Amazon.com
The Pitch: Target back pain at the source in just minutes a day!
The Verdict: Check with your doctor first, then, if you're medically cleared, give it a try.
Teeter Hang Ups are a line of inversion tables designed to make it easy to recline in an inverted position by attaching one's ankles to the bottom via straps or boots, and then tilting the entire table toward the floor. The resultant "stretch" is said to be effective in relieving back pain. The user controls the degree of inversion -- from reclining just a few degrees (recommended for new users) to almost completely upside down.
The manufacturer of Teeter Hang Ups doesn't claim any medical or health benefits beyond temporary relief of back pain, and adds that inversion tables are not suitable for everyone due to various health factors. That list of contraindications is fairly long, and includes those with heart disease, glaucoma and high blood pressure. A complete list of contraindications can be found on Teeter's FAQ page.
We strongly advise that you consult with your doctor before using any inversion table. They can cause more problems than they solve if you have an undiagnosed medical condition that may be exacerbated by inversion.
Having made that clear, Teeter Hang Ups get very high reviews from those who say it definitely helps their back pain. Many people use it every day, for a few minutes a day, and some say they've owned one for years, or are on their second model after wearing out their first. Owners report consistent pain relief plus a pleasant sense of stretching.
While we did not find any expert reviews specific to the Teeter Hang Ups inversion table, the medical consensus on the use of inversion for back pain seems to be mostly in line with the user reviews. Most health professionals say that inversion therapy may provide temporary relief for some, especially when used in conjunction with a comprehensive therapeutic program for relieving back pain, but it does not provide long term benefits. Many users note that they use the Teeter Hang Ups along with exercises for improving core and overall fitness, and that using their Teeter daily provides them with ongoing relief.
Other medical professionals disagree, saying inversion therapy does not help at all, and some worry that people will use it without first being cleared by their doctor -- a valid concern. Again, we urge you to consult your personal care physician.
One suggestion we noted from users, professionals and the manufacturer: start small. Begin by trying a very slight inversion and gradually work up to steeper grades. Users also urge watching the instructional DVD carefully, and some warn against using the device without someone nearby in case you need help.
The Teeter Hang Ups inversion table is reported as very sturdy and well made by owners. It comes with a five-year warranty covering all components. At approximately 70 pounds, Teeter Hang Ups can support users up to 300 pounds, but it can be somewhat difficult to move around and it has a fairly large footprint. It is said to be easy to assemble, most owners say it took them 15 to 30 minutes
The base model of the Teeter Hang Ups is about $300 -- in line with other inversion tables of similar quality. There are no shipping and handling charges if ordered from the manufacturer's website. There also is an option of a 30-day in home trial for $14.95; we did not see any comments from anyone who tried it and then returned it under that 30-day program. The Teeter costs slightly more at Amazon.com, but Prime members get free, two-day shipping.
Teeter Hang Ups Reviews
In more than 250 reviews, the Teeter Hang Ups Inversion Table earns an impressive overall average rating of 4.7 stars out of 5. It gets a lot of love from those who suffer from low back pain and sciatica, with most owners saying it has helped them tremendously -- a few even say it has saved them from choosing to have surgery. Quite a few commenters say you don't need to invert as extremely as in the commercials; that even a very slight angle helps.
Review: Teeter Hang Ups EP-550 Inversion Therapy Table, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of March 2015
The Teeter Hang Ups Inversion Table gets an overall average of 4.4 stars out of 5 at HSN.com. A few say they purchased this model to replace one they had for years that finally wore out. As with Amazon.com, reviewers rave about the relief they get from back soreness. The rating is brought down somewhat by shipping issues that have nothing to do with the product itself. A few do note that the Teeter Inversion Table is heavy and requires more assembly than the commercial implies.
Review: Teeter Hang Ups EP-860 Inversion Table with Flexible ComforTrak™ Bed, Lumbar Bridge and Acupressure Nodes, Contributors to HSN.com, As of March 2015
Brett Sears, About.com's physical therapy expert, offers a thorough overview of using inversion tables to treat low back pain. While this is not specific to the Teeter Hang Ups, it's information anyone should be aware of before purchasing an inversion table. The conclusion: It may or may not help, but get your doctor's permission before trying an inversion table to be sure you don't have any health issues that may be exacerbated by inversion.
Review: Does an Inversion Table Help Low Back Pain?, Brett Sears, Dec. 16, 2014
4. Mayo Clinic
In this very brief article, Dr. Edward Laskowski says that inversion therapy does not provide lasting relief from back pain and that it's not safe for everyone. However, he does note that it can provide temporary relief as part of a comprehensive treatment program for back pain.
Review: Does inversion therapy relieve back pain? Is it safe?, Edward R. Laskowski, M.D. , June 9, 2014
The Hawaii Chair (also called the Hula Chair) is advertised as an easy exercise option for those who don't like to work out. It looks like a desk chair, but the seat rotates in a circular motion, causing the sitter to simulate the movements of a hula dancer. This is supposed to strengthen the user's abdominal muscles, slimming the waist and increasing blood circulation. The commercial even claims that the Hawaii Chair can be used in an office and won't interfere with performing routine activities like typing or using the phone.
There aren't many user reviews available for the Hawaii Chair, but those who have tried it say it comes up short in almost all of its claims. The rotating seat is much too strong to make performing any work tasks possible -- reviewers have compared it to both a carnival ride and a mechanical bull. The chair also doesn't seem to offer any real fitness benefits in terms of toning ab muscles. At best, reviewers speculate, the Hawaii Chair may improve blood circulation for those with mobility problems.
Linda Dahlstrom, a health editor for MSNBC.com, tests the Hawaii Chair in her office and is unable to perform even the most basic tasks due to the violent motion of the chair. She also consults with an in-house fitness expert, who negates the fitness claims made by the Hawaii Chair. Personal trainer Karen Wendler reviews the Hawaii Chair on Examiner.com and says there are several much cheaper fitness solutions that will offer better results than the Hawaii Chair.
Linda Dahlstrom, a health editor for MSNBC.com, tests the Hawaii Chair at the office to see if it offers a decent workout. She finds the chair motion to be so jarring that she is unable to type or hold a phone and talk. Dahlstrom also interviews fitness expert Jay Blahnik, who says the chair won't tone ab muscles but may improve the circulation of someone who limited mobility.
Review: Hula Chair: Sitting Down Gets Dangerous, Linda Dahlstrom, June 5, 2008
Karen Wendler, a certified personal trainer, discusses whether the Hawaii Chair is a legitimate piece of workout equipment, although she does not conduct a hands-on test. She says the chair could be beneficial for those with mobility problems who are looking to stimulate blood circulation, but the Hawaii Chair doesn't offer any exercise benefits.
Review: The Hawaii Chair: Ha-Why Would It Be Useful?, Karen Wendler, March 6, 2009
3. The Ellen Show
Talk show host Ellen Degeneres tests the Hawaii Chair in front of a studio audience. Setting the chair on high speed, she attempts to pour a glass of water and do other office tasks. Slipping and sliding all over the place, Ellen asks an audience member to sit on another Hawaii chair and test it with her. As they both are bounced around in their chairs, Ellen discusses the so-called benefits of the chair to the audience's amusement.
Review: The Hawaii Chair, Ellen DeGeneres, Oct. 21, 2010
The Rack is a relatively light (30-pound), compact workout station that can be configured in three different ways, allowing users to perform sit-ups, crunches, push-ups and dips without the need for bulky equipment.
Because this product is so new, we couldn't locate an abundance of reliable reviews, but owner posts on Amazon.com and an objective evaluation at the Fast, Easy Fit blog were very helpful. Early reviews of The Rack workout station are equivocal. The lead reviewer on Amazon.com, who appears to have genuinely tested out this product, calls The Rack "elegantly simple" and lightweight, but says it's not nearly the all-purpose device it's advertised to be on TV.
For instance, there's no way to do leg exercises, and sit-ups, curls and ab work can be awkward. The blogger at Fast, Easy Fit points out that The Rack's weight has a significant downside because it simply doesn't offer much resistance. However, the reviewer does say this might be a good purchase when combined with other fitness equipment like free weights.
Some of the 5-star reviews of The Rack on Amazon are ecstatic, but there are also more balanced comments. One user says this workout device is "elegantly simple" and compact. He notes, however, that sit-ups, curls and ab work can be awkward, and there's no way to train your legs. One non-fan calls The Rack "a flimsy and rusty set of hollow tubes." There are also a few complaints about the manufacturer adding on extra charges and shipping mishaps resulting in a damaged Rack on delivery.
Review: The Rack Workout Station, Contributors to Amazon.com
2. Fast, Easy Fit (blog)
In this balanced review of The Rack Workout Station, anonymous blogger "JS" points out that this unit is "great in terms of being very portable and easily storable," but not so great in that 30 pounds of resistance isn't very much when it comes to exercises such as squats, lunges and biceps curls. The review also says The Rack doesn't offer any effective back exercises; a user comment appended to this page notes that it isn't good for biceps, either. While there are downsides and limitations to the product, the review does recommend The Rack as a successful workout tool that's fun to use while engaging and toning multiple muscle groups.
Review: The Rack Workout Review, "JS", March 26, 2011
The Pitch: A total body workout in just 10 to 20 minutes a day!
The Verdict: Yes, it will help you get and stay fit, but there is a much cheaper alternative.
Chuck Norris and Christie Brinkley pitch the Total Gym home exercise machine, a simple device that promises a variety of exercises for the entire body. You sit or lie on an incline board that glides on tracks, using pulleys and your own body weight to work legs, chest, abdominals, arms and more.
The Total Gym gets a lot of love from owners, who say that, while a full body workout takes closer to 30 minutes to an hour, you can split up different areas of the body and get a decent number of reps in over a 20 minute period. This home gym seems to be best for beginner or intermediate exercisers some experienced users say it's too easy and that you may get bored with this simple machine. It's also not a good fit for people who are taller than 6 feet; taller users report that it's not as comfortable and they can't get full extension on some of the exercises. Bodybuilding experts also say it isn't for those who want to bulk up -- in other words, you're not going to end up looking like Chuck Norris. However, it will be effective for establishing and/or maintaining baseline fitness.
Owners like the fact that the Total Gym comes fully assembled and you can start working out right away. It gets very good reviews for durability and for its sturdy construction. It has a maximum user weight limit of 400 pounds -- very high for a glideboard-style gym.
The main problem we -- and many other reviewers have -- with the Total Gym is the price. At about $740, it's much more expensive that the nearly identical Weider Ultimate Body Works (Est. $130), which also gets excellent reviews from users. In addition, the Weider includes a set of resistance bungees you can engage for up to 50 pounds of additional resistance, a feature the Total Gym XLS lacks. However, the Weider has a user upper weight limit of only 250 pounds. We compare these two glideboard-style gyms more thoroughly in our separate report on Home Gyms.
We also see complaints that the Total Gym doesn't fold up or store as easily as the ads make it seem. Several users note that, at 7.5 feet, the Total Gym is too long to set up in a small room, let alone slide under the bed. Others say the Total Gym is awkward and heavy.
There are a couple of optional exercise guides that will help you with the proper form when using your Total Gym, the Total Gym Exercise Chart (Est. $20), the Total Gym Training Deck with Holder (Est. $45) and the Total Gym 6-8 Minute Workout DVD (Est. $25). Depending upon where you purchase the Total Gym, these may be included in the package. However, any of those guides will work with the Weider Ultimate Body Works as well. Our advice would be to buy the Weider and put the $600 you save toward a cheap treadmill or elliptical trainer, which we also cover in separate reports.
Total Gym XLS Trainer Reviews
The Total Gym XLS Trainer earns an impressive 4.6-star overall average rating from more than 280 reviewers. Many say they've used it to start an exercise program and have lost weight and gained muscle. It's reported as durable, easy to set up and use, and owners say it offers a good variety of exercises.
Review: Total Gym XLS Trainer, Contributors to Amazon.com, As of January 2015
More than 3760 users review the Total Gym XLS, giving it an overall rating of 4.6 stars out of 5, and 98 percent would recommend it to a friend. Most say it's an excellent value and is a great tool for general fitness, although not for serious bodybuilding or weightlifting.
Review: Total Gym XLS with FREE AbCrunch Attachment, Contributors to Walmart.com, As of January 2015
Wes McDermott is less than impressed with the Total Gym XLS, giving it a 2 star rating out of 5. He notes that he would not recommend it at all, and that it's too expensive and too poorly built to bother with. Elsewhere in the site he notes that the Weider Ultimate Body Works is a better value.
Review: Total Gym XLS Review, Wes McDermott, Sept. 1, 2013