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Consumer tips on fitness equipment "fat burning" claims

New fitness contraption (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Holiday gifts of health and fitness will be purchased in record numbers this season, but the results promoted by marketers of some fitness equipment may be based on myths rather than sound exercise principles.  To make informed decisions about exercise equipment, know the facts before you buy. 

According to Dr. David Swain, be suspicious of claims that any exercise equipment can:

*Burn excessive calories.  Because the body has limits on how many calories it can burn in a single session, it’s impossible to burn substantially more calories on any specialty machine.

*Create 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.

*Target "fat-burning” zones.  No machine makes it easier to expend calories.  Weight loss,  or "fat burning”, comes from total calorie expenditure.  It’s the combination of intensity and duration that counts. 

*Reduce waist size.  Spot-reduction is a popular myth.  Machines that only train the abdominal muscles won’t remove fat from the stomach; only total-body exercise and weight loss reduce fat.

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 more consumer fitness tips, see: 

The Federal Trade Commission Consumer Alerts

Consumer Reports on Sports and Exercise Equipment

Women's Weight Training Fitness Review Tools




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