Ignore the Gimmicks and Work Hard: 3 Fitness Tips from Tim Caulfield

I was recently watching CNN (I am happy to report that I was working out at the time) and one of the news anchors closed her show with a joking reference to an absurd fitness device. The machine wraps around your waist like a belt. If used daily, it could, so the purveyors promised, tighten your butt and melt away fat. It worked by sending a stream of electric shocks through the posterior.  And, naturally, the results would come quickly and require no additional effort (i.e., actual exercise).

While the news anchor didn’t appear to take it too seriously – it is likely hard to talk about electrifying butt flab with a straight face – she did note that the product was getting attention in fashion magazines and that it costs hundreds of dollars.

Whenever I see this kind of product I wonder how they sell and why they are given serious consideration by anyone. Who is buying the butt-zappers, the ab-flexer thingy, and the tush-toning shoes? And, more importantly, do people really think they could work?

In truth, it shouldn’t be a surprise that products that promise quick and easy fitness and weight-loss results continue to sell. I want quick results! And research tells us that lack of time is one of the primary reasons people don’t adopt healthy habits. Given this perceived time crunch – and, in truth, since we watch an average of about three hours of TV each day, it must, for many, be merely a perceived crunch – one can understand why we desperately want to believe that this stuff works. Also, many of these products are marketed in a manner that makes them appear to be legitimate. The CNN story on the butt zapper included cool anatomically accurate and biomedical-looking graphics of waves of electricity vaporizing cellulite.

In fact, if you see a product that claims quick results, ignore it. There is a 99.99% chance it is completely bogus. If, by some miracle, someone invents an electronic, no-effort-required, fat liquefier, the word will get out. But this isn’t likely to happen anytime soon. In the meantime, the good news is that you can obtain the health benefits of physical activity by doing a relatively short, intense workout. It isn’t easy, but the results will be real. No electric shocks required.

Here are three simple suggestions, all supported by good science:

1. Do interval training. Studies have confirmed that you get real health benefits from doing even 10 to 20 minutes of moderate to intense interval training, where you alternate between short bursts of activity — like stationary bike sprints — and short periods of rest.    

2. Lift weights. Again, research has found that, despite conventional wisdom, we all benefit – men, women, kids and the elderly – from resistance training. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but you need to challenge your muscles.

3. Be active all day! This means walking whenever possible, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, commuting to work by bike or public transportation, and trying to avoid sitting for extended periods of time (e.g., stand every time you answer the phone).

Get more tips from Tim Caulfield, or learn more about his book, The Cure for Everything: Untangling the Twisted Messages about Health, Fitness and Happiness.

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