Waist trainers, waist shapers, or waist cinchers. What’s the deal with these “new fitness” products? To be brutally honest, they shouldn’t even be in the category of fitness. Fitness is defined as the body’s ability to function efficiently and effectively in work and leisure activities, to be healthy, to resist disease and to react to emergency situations, and be in a state of health and well-being.
While waist trainers and similar products are aimed at the fitness industry, it is obvious that according to the true definition of fitness, they do not belong in this realm. These devices may, in rare scenarios, accomplish the goal of reducing inches from the waist (which is what many people want from fitness). But the waist trainer simply cannot improve fitness. In fact, it may actually put your health at risk.
The idea behind the waist trainer is a modern-day twist on the corset, used to mould the body into a specific shape. It claims to take inches off your waist without lifting a finger. Amazing, right? You just have to put it on, cinch it up nice and tight, and…SHAZAM! Inches of “fat” are gone. Other claims made by these devices include grandiose promises to metabolize fat, release toxins, compress the core, and reduce food intake.
First things first – you can’t spot-reduce fat. It just isn’t possible. This myth has been debunked time and time again, yet many still fall for it because of wishful thinking. We all have areas we wish we could target for fat loss and imagine being able to reduce them instantly without having to work for it. Will you lose inches using a waist trainer? Maybe. The restriction of the device will make it difficult to eat (and breathe, for that matter). Can you accomplish the exact same effect without a ridiculous, expensive throwback to Victorian England? Uh…yeah.
Another possible way that waist trainers may help users lose inches from their waistlines is from the use of latex in their construction. Latex will make you sweat, especially if you wear it during exercise. Sweating will make you lose water and water loss can lead to lost inches (kind of like body wraps, which is a whole other topic). Therefore, you are not actually losing fat inches, you are losing WATER inches. Guess what? Water will come back. So that means to keep those inches off you will have to use the waist trainer all the time, which can lead to some potential health risks.
Some very real health risks of wearing a waist trainer long term:
- compression of internal organs (kidney, liver, intestine) which can lead to improper functioning due to lack of blood flow
- digestive issues
- shortness of breath from compression of the diaphragm and inability of lungs to expand
- muscle loss of the core musculature
- deformation of the stomach, liver and lungs
I hesitate to say it, but there may be ONE positive thing about a waist trainer. It may help improve posture, as you will be reminded to stand or sit tall. It can serve as a reminder to engage your core muscles as you go about your daily activities. However, most fitness professionals would agree that it is much more preferable to build a strong back and core through good old-fashioned hard work and proper core exercises.
The bottom line is- you can’t spot-reduce, and who wants to risk their health to just to gain the appearance (not even the reality!) of a slimmed down waistline? Save your money and invest in proper nutrition and exercise that will improve your overall health and well-being, without any of the negative health effects.
Shara Vigeant, BA, NSCA-CPT, CFSC