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Consumers Should Exercise Caution on Fitness Machine Claims, Expert Says

by User Not Found | Aug 01, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS –  Many exercise equipment advertisers make bold claims about their products’ benefits – claims that should be taken with a grain of salt, according to an expert in the September/October issue of a journal of the American College of Sports Medicine.

David Swain, Ph.D., FACSM, says if an assertion sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

“There is still no ‘miracle machine’ that will give you the body of a fitness model in just a few minutes per day,” Swain said. “The tried-and-true machines that have been around for the longest, like treadmills, have remained staples of the fitness industry for a reason.”

Swain says consumers should be especially wary of these claims:

  • Excessive calorie burn. It’s impossible to burn, say, twice the number of calories on a specialty machine as on a treadmill. The body has a natural limit on how many calories can be burned in a given exercise session.
  • Fitness fast. Brief bouts of high-intensity exercise can improve maximum power more than low-intensity exercise, but cannot improve all areas of fitness in just a few short minutes.
  • “Fat-burning” zones. According to the intensity zones on some machines, you don’t have to work as hard to burn fat. But Swain says that weight loss – or what some interpret as “fat burning” – comes from total calorie expenditure. It’s the combination of intensity and duration that counts.
  • Waist reduction. Spot-reduction is a fantasy, Swain says. Machines that only train the abdominal muscles won’t remove fat from the stomach; only total-body exercise and weight loss will eventually yield those results.

In addition, Swain notes that many machines’ reported caloric expenditures are inflated. Most inflate the calories by including resting energy consumption, and use of the machine is a big factor in calorie burn. For example, holding on to the handrails of a steeply inclined treadmill reduces calorie expenditure – but the calorie report on the machine doesn’t reflect that change.

“Exercisers should focus on overall health and accumulating at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity, or at least 75 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity activity,” Swain said. “More is needed for weight loss, but the real benefits of exercise are decreased risk of disease and improved quality of life.”

The public can find tips for meeting the physical activity recommendations at


NOTE: ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal® is an official journal of the American College of Sports Medicine, and is available from Lippincott Williams & Wilkins at 1-800-638-6423. For a complete copy of the article (Vol. 13, No. 5, pages 9-12) or to speak with a leading sports medicine expert on the topic, contact the Department of Communications and Public Information at 317-637-9200 ext. 127 or 133. Visit ACSM online at

The conclusions outlined in this news release are those of the article authors only, and should not be construed as an official statement of the American College of Sports Medicine.
The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 35,000 international, national, and regional members and certified professionals are dedicated to advancing and integrating scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine.

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