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I was walking through a local shop with my kids a couple of weeks ago, and one of them said “Dad, there’s the ‘Shake Weight’!”  A sheepish grin accompanied this statement from my 10 year old.  We both laughed, but avoided the in-store demo.  I’m pretty sure the shake weight has made someone a lot of money, and my first reaction is that nobody’s on the road to fitness because of the shake weight.  However, the more I thought about it, the shake weight and a few other strange and silly fitness products may have improved the health of anyone whose ever had the pleasure of seeing one of the advertisements or infomercials.  There have been a number of health & fitness products that are so wonderfully ridiculous, it would be impossible not to laugh, which is incredibly good for you.  There has been a tremendous amount of research supporting the positive effects of laughter on health and healing.

A few of the key benefits of laughter include:*

  • Laughter Relaxes Your Entire Body.  A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes.
  • Laughter Gives Your Immune system a Boost.  Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving your resistance to disease.
  • Laughter Triggers the Release of Endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals.  Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain.
  • Laughter Helps Protect Your heart.  Laughter improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect you against a heart attack and other cardiovascular problems.

*Source (http://www.helpguide.org)

Given these benefits, and many more that have been linked to a good, deep full-body laugh, here are a few of the most ludicrous, silly, wacky fitness products ever to hit the market:

Ab Lounge/Ab Rocket – Want to build rock hard abs, but hate those boring, uncomfortable sit ups and crunches?  Then here’s the product for you.  Lounge your way to the washboard stomach you’ve always dreamed about.  Also makes a great video game chair!

Sketcher “Shape-Ups” – Want to have the legs and ‘glutes’ of a track star, and have the fashion sense of a nurse from the 1950’s?  If so, you need a pair of Sketcher “Shape Ups.”  It turns out a lot  people bought these shoes.  Also turns out that a class action lawsuit was recently settled in the amount of $40 million USD for false advertising claims and injuries relating to the product.  When I saw the claims of the lawsuit it kind of reminded me of the lawsuit against Steve Martin for the “Opti-Grab” in the movie “The Jerk.”

Gazelle Edge Trainer (Tony Little) – OK, so this one gets your body moving, and I’m sure there are those that have had great workouts on the Gazelle Edge, and perhaps even used it to make real progress in their health fitness journey.  My in-laws even have one of these in their living room, and when it doesn’t have clothes hanging on it, it’s at least 10-15 minutes of wackiness for my kids and I when we visit.  This thing simply cracks me up, and always has since the very first time I saw the infomercial featuring Tony Little.  Given that it makes you laugh and could give a good workout, this may be the best piece of fitness equipment you’ll never own.

Electronic Muscle Stimulators (any brand) – Aimed at that ever elusive dreamer looking for an easy fix, this set of products seems both outlandish and potentially dangerous.  Maybe not as funny as the others, but the commercials showing musclebound, ripped 20-somethings, sitting on the sofa watching television while their muscles took in the voltage was at the intersection of “funny and alarming.”  Clear!

Thighmaster – I don’t know if the Thighmaster started it all, but until recently it was surely the master class of the “As Seen on TV” strange, cheap and awkward fitness equipment list.  Forget about cardio, building a strong core, or increasing your athletic prowess.  Who needs those things when you can develop thighs capable of crushing walnuts?

Shake Weight – Just when you thought it was safe to watch television with your kids, here comes the shake weight.  An almost incomprehensible masterpiece of fitness equipment that is embarrassing on a global scale.  A common reference on ESPN’s Sports Center, the subject of a great commercial parody on Saturday Night Live, the shake weight stands alone at the top of the heap of hilarious fitness products.

As long as their are inventors and marketers looking to make money, and there are people looking for something to make their workout more effective, interesting, or easier, we’ll see more products like these.  I hope when you see them, you enjoy a good belly laugh.  Then do some basic weight training, some core exercises (planking, crunches, etc.), and some cardio, and you can actually shrink that belly.

Small steps add up!