We've all been there: Late at night, you can't sleep, sitting on the couch in your comfy PJs, and feeling the existential angst while the TV blares. Suddenly, there it is: the exercise product that finally, finally, will get you to put down the popcorn, get up off the couch, and blast away your fat in just a few short workouts three times a week. You can handle that, right? And for only three payments of $39.99, with a bonus water bottle if you act now! Grab the credit card!
And we all know how this story ends: three months later, you have a very expensive doorstop. I'm not judging; I once spent money on a flimsy little stepper that looked like a stair climber without the top rails and was absolutely impossible to stay upright on while working out. I used it one time, for about 10 minutes.
So, no judgement, but let's laugh together at some of these rather misguided exercise products, shall we?
The Shake Weight
[Editor's Note: We've removed our review of the Shake Weight after being contacted by the company's legal team.]
The Hawaii Chair
Yet another unintentionally porny not to mention "so ridiculous they cannot be serious" commercial. The Hawaii Chair (and its arch rival, the Hula Chair) consists of an office-type chair with a motor attached, which gyrates your hips around while you sit. If the gorgeous, buff fitness models in the commercial look awkward while the chair spins them around from the waist down, imagine how silly most of us would feel. They claim you can use it at work. Picture being in a meeting with your boss while she hulas away ... kind of horrifying, no?
James S. Fell, reviewing the Bowflex for the LA Times, pretty much summed up the feeling on these expensive coat racks:
As a guy with 17 years' experience with free weights, I decided to give the Bowflex a try myself and instantly hated it. So I kept trying for another 15 minutes to see if it grew on me, and the only thing that grew was a desire to douse the machine in napalm and hurl it into an active volcano.
Plus, they've been the subject of frequent recalls. And that guy in the ad who talks about how his wife gives him the little wink now and again, and how he's given his fat clothes to his fat friends just seems like kind of a douchebag.
These odd little machines, which purported to work the whole body by having you pull up and down on a handle to raise and lower your body, were incredibly hard to use. Although they were ubiquitous in gyms in the mid-1990s, I never once saw anyone use it; there could be a line for each treadmill three people deep but the poor Healthrider sat alone. They're back in production now after having been discontinued, proving everything old is new again.
These attractive little numbers, which resemble nothing so much as garbage bags, supposedly allow you to sweat off those last few pounds by retaining heat and moisture. In other words: they braise you in your own sweat. They may be effective for losing a quick inch or so, but those pounds will be right back on your hips the minute you consume food or water. And I cannot even bear to think of what they must smell like.
Okay, these boots with big, bouncy springs on their soles actually look kind of fun, albeit a recipe for a broken bone if you've got anything less than rock-solid balance ... and the ACE review all but promises you will piss yourself laughing. At a cost of $229, though, you'd better be using them daily and I just can't imagine anyone being willing to draw the ridicule of the neighbors like that every single day.
These new skate-like contraptions meld the boot of an in-line skate with what looks to me like the wheels of a miniature old-timey bicycle. Supposedly, they are much smoother and faster than in-line skates. But when the reviewer (who actually loved them) says this:
When I rollerbladed I just used hand protectors. Use a helmet, hand, elbow, and knee pads with these until you get used to them. Even after that always use a helmet and at least hand pads. Because they are smoother and more maneuverable you may end up taking more spills.
Rule to live by: When a positive review suggests you need to swath yourself in protective padding or you could get hurt badly, that product is ill-advised.
If you're tempted by an infomercial, or simply considering an equipment purchase, ACE has unbiased reviews of many trendy exercise products.