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Fitness Articles  ›  Pitfalls and Plateaus

10 Signs a Fitness Gadget is a Gimmick

Questions to Ask Yourself to Avoid a Scam

-- By Jennipher Walters, Certified Personal Trainer and Fitness Instructor
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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.
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About The Author

Jennipher Walters Jennipher Walters
Jenn is the CEO and co-founder of the healthy living websites FitBottomeGirls.com, FitBottomedMamas.com and FitBottomedEats.com. 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.

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. - 1/8/2014 5:19:03 PM
  • BOOTSTRAPBILL13
    Great article - 9/8/2013 8:24:43 AM
  • These are excellant reminders. I've been suckered in by the "must hurry to get the special deal" BS. - 9/8/2013 3:29:49 AM
  • 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.
    - 7/20/2013 8:04:33 PM
  • Great article! - 7/9/2013 4:15:43 PM
  • ABALLENGER1
    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! - 6/10/2013 11:42:20 AM
  • 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... - 6/9/2013 11:40:15 PM
  • 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. - 6/9/2013 6:12:14 PM
  • Great article. Point for point, great advice.

    Thanks for posting. - 6/9/2013 6:49:40 AM
  • I agree with PMCGlothin is better to lose weight on a low carb diet and exercise. - 5/11/2013 1:20:32 PM
  • 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. - 3/25/2013 10:45:46 AM
  • JWOOLMAN
    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. - 4/16/2012 5:01:30 PM
  • JWOOLMAN
    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... - 4/16/2012 4:52:06 PM
  • 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. - 4/14/2012 9:45:51 AM
  • POTTERB1
    very well written article. - 4/14/2012 8:43:39 AM
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