Garages across the nation are crammed to the rafters with dusty dumbbells, ex-exercise bikes and untrodden treadmills, testament to the spirit being willing but the flesh being lazy. It’s no surprise, then, that quick-fix fads offering gym bodies without the actual effort have made millions for their inventors.
We’re all guilty of watching those celeb-laden infomercials, laughing heartily, before slowly coming round to the idea and then frantically ordering one. So in honour of every duff purchase we’ve ever made, here’s our rundown of the eight naffest fitness gizmos, gadgets, masks and machines of all time:
Are you tired of pesky skipping ropes that trip you up and force you to actually develop some skills? Do you like over-engineered products that cost 15 times more than they should? Then boy, have we got the product for you.
Invented to ‘solve’ the ‘problem’ of skipping being too darn hard, the JumpSnap unsurprisingly comes with a doozy of an infomercial. Proud to be “the world’s first and only ropeless jump-rope system,” it apparently never occurred to the manufacturers why exactly no one had done it before.
One disappointed reviewer states that after giving the JumpSnap as a present, she was told it ‘was deemed too complicated and not motivating enough without a real rope.’ Nonetheless, it’s still available if you have friends too polite to tell you how much they hated your present.
7. Gravity Strider/Air Walker/Gazelle
Despite its many cool-sounding names, this giant machine was known as ‘the clothes horse’ in my house because that’s all it got used for. A hefty frame with two swingy pedals attached to handles, the theory was that you’d use it to walk like a maniac in mid-air, burning mad calories as you went:
But in reality, you’d get on, get hold of the handles and swing wildly because it was ridiculously fun. This burned basically zero calories and never raised so much as a beadette of sweat, but it made you feel like it was. The poor old gravity strider is probably capable of doing good things if you read the manual and use it properly, but the fact is, it was just too fun for its own good.
Bonus point: you can apparently use it to practice the Cossack dance:
6. Swivel Fitness Disc/Health Twister
Doing the twist is good for you! Or so say the makers of these plastic circles for booty-wobbling your way to fitness.
My housemate at uni had one of these, and the first time she used it (at 7am), I woke up in a cold sweat because I thought someone was trying to saw through the ceiling. They’re not what you’d call quiet.
Most of what you need to know about this gadget comes from one screen in the instruction video:
Which is sensible, given that they advocate buying two and doing things like this:
As with the gravity strider, there probably are ways to safely get fitter with one of these, but there are more ways to faff about for hours without achieving anything, or worse, land yourself in A&E with an implausible story.
5. The Hawaii/hula chair
‘This chair does the Hula, with you in it!‘ – another infomercial star product, the Hawaii or hula chair apparently ‘gives intestines and stomach a rhythmic massage.’ I don’t know about you, but I could really go for an intestinal massage right about now.
Even better, you can ‘Use it as a chair when not in operation’! Holy moly. What a bargain.
The Hawaii chair is apparently marvellous for using at work, where your oddly-static male colleagues can stare in wonder as you gyrate majestically and finish your paperwork. That’s multitasking, ladies.
I highly recommend watching the entire infomercial, even if just for the guy with the cheeky grin who says ‘It feels great on my… abs.’ And of course the inevitable jingle.
Sadly, the Hawaii Chair is no longer available, although I reckon half of America has one stashed away somewhere. Keep an eye out for garage sales if you want to work on your… abs.
4. The Shake Weight
When the Shake Weight launched in 2010, it set the internet alight – but not because of its fitness credentials:
Men everywhere rejoiced as the Shake Weight team told the world that what women needed to tone that vexing under-arm fat wasn’t dumbbells and tricep curls, but a very particular hand action. One that has existed since long before the Shake Weight turned up.
Unsurprisingly, a raft of parodies appeared almost instantly (even South Park got in on it), and enterprising blokes across the planet bought their wives a Shake Weight for Christmas in the hope of a very happy New Year.
The Shake Weight is still available, if your fitness regime needs a hand.
3. Jiggly belts
One of the most popular car boot sale items of all time, jiggly belts debuted in the 1800s but really took off in the post-war 1950s:
This was another gem of the sit-back-and-let-the-machine-do-all-the-work school, which is a time-honoured way to part lazy people and their money. In theory, you stood there while the machine jiggled your wobbly bits like a lava lamp, and somehow the fat under your skin would break up and leave home.
Unsurprisingly, jiggly belt owners found they didn’t quite work as advertised, although they did give you a jolly good wobbling, which some people seemed to enjoy (leading to a later surge in popularity as a ‘massager’, after people tried to work out what on earth to do with them all).
That looks… uncomfortable
If you can figure out a good use for these, fame and fortune awaits you. There are probably 10 on your local Freecycle right now.
It sounds like such a great idea. Slip on this unobtrusive belt and get on with your life while harmless electrical stimulation turns your muscles from flab to fab. You’ll barely even notice you’re wearing it!
In reality, the electrical pulses range from anything to ‘mild but ineffective’ to ‘someone just plugged their hairdryer into my belly button’.
These things have been around since at least the 1940s, when the beautifully named Relax-A-Cizor hit the market, before being withdrawn for causing nasty side effects like heart problems and miscarriages.
Mad Men’s Peggy found a much more stimulating use for the Relax-A-Cizor, but sadly, modern ab belts don’t also function as sex aids. Plus the pads have to be replaced every so often, you have to smear gross conducting gel on yourself, and if you have any tummy fat, it probably won’t even do anything. And if you don’t have any tummy fat, why would you get one at all?!
Like an ab belt, but for your face. Yes, seriously. This unbelievably expensive gizmo is Slendertone Face, which looks like a pair of headphones but goes on your cheeks to firm up your face muscles. Because everyone wants a muscular face.
“Hey, Jenny, have you been working out? Your jawline looks buff.”
Slendertone aren’t the first to jump on the face-workout bandwagon, though.
The utterly terrifying Rejuvenique mask looks like something from a sci-fi dystopia film, but actually came out in the 90s with – you guessed it – a celebrity infomercial.
Even worse is the how-to-use video, set to ‘You Are So Beautiful’, which the internet rightly describes as ‘nightmare fuel’. Don’t watch this one before bed!