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Infomercial exercise machines put to the test

January 15, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
No doubt you've seen the infomercials for fitness machines that claim to burn fat and build muscle, giving you the body you always wanted. You'd think each one offers a perfect solution. But before you dial the 800 number, see what consumer specialist ric romero found out.Blast out that belly fat! Lose 10 pounds in 10 days! Infomercial exercisers promise plenty, but when Eyewitness News teamed up with Consumer Reports to test 10 exercise devices, we found they don't deliver the workout or the weight loss.

The AirClimber claims that you'll lose 10 pounds or 10 inches in 10 days. And the $50 Bean promises to get you lean. Or how about the $160 Red Exerciser's claim? "You'll lose up to four inches off your midsection in two weeks," claims the ad.

Consumer Reports just evaluated 10 infomercial exercise devices. Tester Todd Young says the infomercials make little or no mention of the diet plans that come with most.

"Many of the infomercials focus on how great the equipment is for weight loss. Of course, if you follow the low-calorie diet, which most products include, you'd lose weight," said Todd Young.

So to determine if any of these machines are worth getting, Consumer Reports focused on the workout they deliver.

Testers used an instrument to monitor the number of calories burned during a workout.

For abdominal and bun-and-thigh machines, testers measured how hard muscles worked in targeted areas.

After using an infomercial exerciser, for comparison, panelists did exercises that required no special equipment.

The $140 AirClimber claims it can burn up to 950 calories per hour.

"Our test results show that you would have to weigh over 300 pounds to burn that many calories in an hour," said Young. "For a typical 165-pound person, you'd burn about 450, not 950 calories."

Tests show the $180 Leg Magic Professional did a good job on inner thighs, but simple lunges will better strengthen three additional leg muscles.

The Bean's "3-in-One Super Rock" exercise only challenged muscles about the same as floor crunches with a pelvic tilt. So what's the real skinny?

"With most of these products, you can get similar or better results by doing exercises that don't require any equipment," said Young.

If you think you'd be motivated using an infomercial exercising device, Consumer Reports says one to consider is the $150 Urban Rebounder. It's a mini-trampoline that provides the highest calorie-burning rate of any of the equipment tested, similar to going for a jog.