Fitness Articles

10 Signs a Fitness Gadget is a Gimmick

Questions to Ask Yourself to Avoid a Scam

Fitness infomercials promise a lot: dramatic weight-loss, big results, a six pack in 30 days! But unfortunately, most of them do not deliver on those promises. When those ads are so intriguing and believable, how do you know which new products deliver and which ones leave much to be desired?

To separate the real fitness tools from the get-fit-quick scams, just ask yourself the 10 questions below. If you answer, "yes" even one of them, save your money: It probably won't give you the results it promises!

10 Must-Ask Questions before You Buy Another Exercise Product

1. Does it sound too good to be true?
If it does, it probably is. The people behind these products and ads really are marketing geniuses. In a matter of seconds, they harness your attention. Within minutes, you believe that you can have the body of a fitness model in just minutes a day, too. But we all know that isn't realistic. Looking like a fitness spokesperson has everything to do with a very low body-fat percentage, which takes hard work, time and dedication. Here's another insider trick: When calculating how many calories a new product burns, many companies will test their product on a very large, muscular man to get an inflated number, which skews the calorie burn for most people. If the ad in question is promising results that logically aren't possible, change the channel.

2. Does it target just one body part?
I'm always getting asked how to lose weight from a certain problem area, but no matter where you want to target, the answer is the same: Spot reduction doesn't work. If the Booty Blaster on TV promises that you'll lose inches off your rear, it's lying! There is no way to slim down, lose water weight or trim inches from a specific area of the body just by working that body part. If you have body fat that is hiding your muscles, only a calorie-controlled diet combined with a sound exercise program (that also burns calories via cardio) will solve the problem. The same goes for abs machines that promise to give you a six-pack or whittle away your love handles. Sure, you can make your abs stronger with strengthening and toning exercises (which is awesome!), but you won't go from a size 12 to a size 2 overnight.

3. Does it fail to mention diet or nutrition?
Nutrition is such an integral part of losing inches, building muscle and dropping weight. If a product or fitness program doesn't address the nutrition side of the weight-loss equation (i.e. a reduced-calorie diet), then you can pretty much guarantee that it's a gimmick exaggerating its results. All the exercise in the world will not change your body if your diet isn't also in line with your goals.

4. Is it really that different?
What is most interesting about infomercials is that the products and programs for sale seem so new and revolutionary! The marketing on them really gets you pumped up! But step back and ask yourself if the gizmo, DVD or training plan really is special or if it's just being marketed as something exciting. Time after time, I see new infomercials for strength training products that are all different shapes and sizes and materials. Do they work? Most likely, anything will work if you use them regularly. But are they any better than the tried-and-true pieces of equipment at the gym (dumbbells, resistance bands, stability balls, etc.)? Probably not.

5. Are the dramatic results what interest me?
If you answer yes to this question, run away from the phone. Do not "act now" and order the product. If you're desperate to lose weight and the claims of rapid weight loss or dramatic results are persuading you to pick up that phone to order, take a deep breath and remind yourself that buying the product itself won't help you lose weight. Using it regularly, along with a healthy diet and sound fitness program will. And if the product or program doesn't interest you at all, then it's probably not a smart buy, no matter how effective it appears to be. For example, if you have two left feet and would never be caught dead on a dance floor, ordering a set of hip-hop dance DVDs probably won't work for you—even if it has worked for others.

6. Is the creator of the product MIA?
The safest, most effective fitness products and programs were created by qualified fitness professionals with degrees in exercise science and/or advanced certifications in personal training or group exercise. If the creator of the product is not certified or fails to mention the qualifications of his or her expertise, be wary! Do some additional research first (see number 9). If a celebrity or model is promoting a product, be sure that an exercise scientist or fitness professional has provided the science.

7. Will it too hard or too easy for me to use?
Some fitness products out there are incredibly challenging and completely unsuitable for beginners. In fact, one of the most popular infomercials, P90X, gives even the fittest people a challenge. On the other side, some other DVDs and products are much easier and would not be appropriate for a seasoned exerciser. Look closely at the moves and the exercises shown on TV and see if you can do them. If your knees start aching after a couple moves, it probably is not for you.

8. Do the testimonials come from paid actors?
Although this has changed in the last few years, infomercials are notorious for paying actors and models to provide testimonials. Pay close attention to the small print at the bottom of the screen. By law, it has to tell you if the testimonials come from real people who have used the product or from actors performing a "dramatization."

9. Does it have many negative reviews online?
It's always good to perform an online search for the product's name along with the word "review" to see what comes up. There are a number of sites dedicated to reviewing products in infomercials. Look up your product and see what people like you are saying about it—preferably on a website that is not affiliated with the product (such as Every product will have a few negative reviews, but if you see nothing but bad comments about it, you're probably better off without it.

10. Do you have to have it right now?
If you're ready to act now, this may be an impulse purchase akin to that king-size candy bar, only more expensive. Infomercials are designed to make you want you to buy now. And they always offer special deals, last-minute offers and other incentives to get you to pick up the phone before you miss a "one-time" opportunity. Give it some time and thought. Make yourself wait at least a day to decide if you still really want it and will use it. The answer might surprise you. Some ideas seem better at 3 a.m. than they do in the daylight!

Overall, it's best to use your common sense when purchasing a fitness product from an infomercial. While many of them are a little gimmicky, there are plenty out there that can produce results! However, remember, for any product to truly work, you have to use it. It's not the Bowflex or the ThighMaster that gets you moving, it's YOU!

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints
Page 1 of 1  
Got a story idea? Give us a shout!

Member Comments

  • Great tips that apply for all kinds of purchases! My mother taught me that if you see something in the store you think you want, it's a good idea to leave it and think about it overnight. Clearly, if you forget about it overnight then you didn't really want it.
  • These are excellant reminders. I've been suckered in by the "must hurry to get the special deal" BS.
  • While I do not dispute the veracity of the article I DO wish to say that in my opinion there is NOTHING more wasteful or ineffective than ANY exercise machine that sits unused. True there are MANY that would be better off not bought but there are scores of ellipticals, stationary bikes, nordic tracks and bow flexes etc used for washing lines. Terrible.
    Great Article!

    I got "GOT" with an info commercials, one time. I purchased an ab roller and it was impossible to use. The equipment would roll away from me and I tried it on carpet and on regular floors.

    Fortunately we have the internet at our disposal to do as this article suggested to review comments on any potential buys we might be considering. No impulse buying here!
  • Wish I had seen this BEFORE I bought my tread climber. It is too hard, too much money, and with alot of HYPE that I don't believe...
  • this is a very well written article and all the ?'s are valid, always think " is it to good to be true" and it mostly always is.
  • Great article. Point for point, great advice.

    Thanks for posting.
  • I agree with PMCGlothin is better to lose weight on a low carb diet and exercise.
  • I do not like to exercise and have started from scratch both times I have done P90x (I am currently doing the program and starting week 5). I disagree that the program is not for beginners because if I can do it, out of shape, overweight, not fit, I think most people can. There are modified moves in every workout and he is continually saying to take a break if you need it. After 4 weeks, I haven't really lost weight, but my jeans are a little looser and I am firming up all over.
  • An earlier poster mentioned exercise DVDs - some of them may have free demos on the net, so it's worth looking for that. I know that Leslie Sansone has sample walk in place exercise videos at various sites (you can try a full 15 minute mile or more), I imagine others do also. Also public libraries may have dvds to loan out that are like the one that interests you. You could at least record the infomercial and use that as a sort of demo! If you try it before you buy it, then you might have a better idea if it would be worth the money to you and would be something you would stick with. You might be able to buy some of them used also, especially older ones.
  • Today anything sold on those infomercials will still be available to buy online - just look for "as seen on tv", that will steer you toward sites that sell them. Also look on Amazon. So you can wait and think and look at reviews and still get the same (or even better) deal if you decide to buy.

    It's worth looking at the size of the people demonstrating the device and making sure that fits your dimensions, also. I actually did buy a Power Rider (kind of rowing from a bicycle type seat) from an infomercial many, many years ago (probably before the World Wide Web ...) while I was in the middle of a difficult time with my back. I imagine they were peddling it for other reasons, but it caught my eye because I noticed the people in the infomercial who were my height were basically getting a good full-body stretch on it. The tall people looked scrunched -- they obviously needed a bigger machine, it didn't look comfortable for them. When the Power Rider arrived, I was still having back trouble despite doing the exercises for it, but since the Power Rider came practically completely assembled I couldn't resist getting on it to just give it a try. I only used it at slow speed for about a minute or two, but the next day - I was able to get out of bed without any pain! It only took that much of a real stretch to help me out, I was right that it would stretch me out better than I could do myself. So I continued to use it just a few minutes at a time.

    I still use it periodically as a different kind of exercise, but at my own leisurely pace, and think it was well worth the money for my purposes. My neighbor, on the other hand, bought it for "weight loss" and is significantly taller than me. She actually tried to follow the instructions for a "workout" that all those toned and muscular people were promoting and didn't find it helpful, it was not something she would keep up with, and she soon was looking to unload it on someone else. (Which is why ebay is also a good source of cheap deals on exercise equipment...) So it all depends on your expecta...
  • Thank you for this extremely well written, perceptive article. I think anyone who considers buying a quick-fix, slickly marketed product advertised on an infomercial should read this first. I hope the smart folks at SparkPeople keep this classic piece prominently available for people to read.

    It is extremely unwise to try to lose weight through the increased metabolic rate promised by many exercise and weight-loss products promoted on television. Increased metabolic rate is linked to increased disease risk and shorter lifespan.

    It's far better to lose weight with a delicious. low calorie diet, which also takes care of the emotional needs that cause people to turn to unhealthful comfort foods that put on pounds.

    I certainly think exercise is important, but it should be carefully planned to build muscle and joint strength, which provides protection against osteoporosis.
    very well written article.

About The Author

Jennipher Walters Jennipher Walters
Jenn is the CEO and co-founder of the healthy living websites, and A certified personal trainer, health coach and group exercise instructor, she also holds an MA in health journalism and is the author of The Fit Bottomed Girls Anti-Diet book (Random House, 2014).

See all of Jenn's articles.