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15 Strangest Health and Fitness Fads

Fads come and go. Few corners of the culture seem immune to the allure of fads that seem like a good idea at the time, but before very long the novelty is gone and what once chic becomes cheesy.

The health and fitness industry is a multibillion dollar juggernaut that often seems to be built around one strange fad after another. This isn’t a new phenomenon either, the siren song of the fitness fad goes far back in human history. The ancient Greeks made state of the art “dumbbells” out of various sizes of rocks.

Who can trace the origins of the first “cure all” elixir that promised health and wellbeing? Whether it’s a potion, apparatus or workout, the health and fitness industry will likely keep trying to reinvent the wheel as long it can make a profit.

15. Shake it Out

Unlike a standard dumbbell that has rigid handles, the Shake Weight features a spring handles with weights attached at each end.

According to the manufacturers, they work by a principle called “dynamic inertia” but as some product reviewers have pointed out that “dynamic” and “inertia” describe pretty much describe all movement associated with exercise.

This means, attempts at clever marketing aside, there is nothing useful about the Shake Weight. Some exercisers might find the novelty of it motivating — at least until this combination Slinky and dumbbell fails to deliver any results. And beyond that it has been ridiculed for the not too subtle sexual connotations some people have made about them.

14. Bad Vibrations

The vibrating belt machine has been around for a long time, but no one seems to point to any any legitimate success stories for this strange looking contraption. The “science” behind these machines is vague at best, relying on the idea that the vibrating causes the stomach and hips muscles to contract forcefully and burn extra calories.

The vibrations do cause any loose hanging fat to jiggle, but the calorie burning potential seems dubious at best. These contraption appear to be an early example of the exercise-doesn’t-have-to-mean-exertion brand of fitness products. No need to sweat or breathe heavy, just stand still and let the vibrating belt do all the work!

13. Rocks of Ancients

Fitness was a part of Greek culture and although they were known to be a sensible people they were not immune to fads. Apparently, they liked to pick up heavy things and put them down again hence the halteres or rocks used as primitive dumbbells.

Perhaps this form of exercise makes sense to a rugged people who valued manliness and the martial virtues, but probably unnecessary. Exhaustive combat training with body armor made from metal as well as various weapons and shields provided plenty of resistance exercise for Greeks citizen soldiers.

For the ones who felt they needed extra resistance work the stones were probably fairly effective. Although, in modern times odd object lifting is regarded with trepidation by many lifters because of the increased risk of injury.

12. Magic Slippers or Clown Shoes?

The trouble with these strength shoes is that even if they work, and they actually might help someone get a little more explosive — they look way too stupid for most self-respecting exercisers to be seen wearing them in public.

Seinfeld underscored this point through a convoluted chain of events that found Kramer wearing a pair of these strength shoes, suffering from a mouth injury and being told he was very independent for a “special person.”

Classic sitcoms aside, strength shoes had a short run as a fad, but the embarrassment factor was very much out of balance with the results one could realistically expect to get from them.

 11. Master of None

It’s a little hard to believe the Thigh Master was ever taken seriously by anyone. This piece of equipment is another example of the exercise doesn’t have to mean exertion brand of fitness products.

No need for squats and running or even a little aerobic dancing — just sit on your couch and let the Thigh Master tone and shape your thighs with almost no effort on your part. The Thigh Master supposedly isolates the adductor muscles go the thigh.

Isolating a portion of the thigh musculature instead training the thighs and hips with big exercises like squats is an ineffective way to train. If its rank ineffectiveness wasn’t enough the Thigh Master vaguely resembles some sort of day glow personal restraint device for cheerful masochists.

10. Wiiiiiiiiiii!

I’m sure it made sense when it was pitched. Combine video game play with exercise — what’s not to like?  Lame avatars for one.

But even if Wii Fit had boasted the state of the art in photo realistic game play — which would probably be pretty cool — you’d still be left playing a video game that allows you to pretend you’re working out instead of actually working out.

To be fair we have to point out that these Wii workouts are better than sitting on the couch and just playing video games, but not by much. Wii golf and Wii darts are OK as video games, but involve zero exercise. At least with real darts you have to walk over to the dart board and pull the darts out before throwing them again.

9. Frozen Fitness

Popsicles don’t care if they’re fit, but people do so all kinds of strange fads have tried to tap into this age old desire. What does subjecting yourself to deadly cold temperatures have to do with getting fit? Nothing, but that hasn’t stopped manufactures and marketers from trying to create a new wellness niche called cryotherapy.

Enthusiasts pay handsomely for the privilege of being subjected to dry air chilled down to – 228 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. Advocates insist there are numerous benefits to regular cold therapy including accelerated recovery, increased energy and even a treatment for depression.

Studies have not shown any lasting benefits, but $100.00 per treatment can effectively separate you from your cold hard cash.

8. Recruit in Boots

Military bootcamp is something to be avoided if possible, but almost guarantee to get you into great shape. Most people never serve in the military, but they can get a little taste of bootcamp workouts.

For a price, you can join classes taught by a pretend drill instructor who will push you to work harder and maybe even yell at you a little if you’ve paid enough money. Bootcamp workouts are a reaction to the air conditioned, sterile chrome plated gyms that have done as much to make us soft as they have to get us into shape.

Calisthenics at dawn on wet grass in park do require a bit more mental toughness than dumbell presses seated on a padded bench. But in the end, the convenience of chrome plated gyms will win out over the spartan bootcamp classes.

7. Bit O Fit

For many of us our workouts give us an opportunity to leave our overly plugged in lives behind for a few precious minutes. If this isn’t you and you’re afraid you might curl up in a ball sobbing if deprived of your digital toys for just a few short minutes than perhaps the Fit Bit was made for you.

This technology allows you to keep track of your calories burned, steps taken and a range of other workout and health factors. These might be a good idea for people looking for a little motivation, but in the long-term it seems like it would be too much like checking your email or scrolling through recent Twitter posts.

Unfortunately, for many, this is the point. Instead of getting a welcome respite, Fit Bit can provide the tech addled with a comforting digital hit.

6. Health Encapsulated

According to the Mayo Clinic there are legitimate medical uses for hyperbaric chambers. These chambers provide increased level of oxygen to damaged tissues for patients suffering from ailments including severe Anemia, crushing injury, Gangrene and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Regrettably, some advocates of hyperbaric chambers have pushed them as a sort of cure all for all manner of conditions including AIDS, Alzheimers, cancer, depression, fibromyalgia, migraines and stroke. This sampling of ailments that oxygen therapy supporters says it can treat is in itself an indictment of the technology.

It is unconscionable that an effective piece of medical technology has been enlisted by snake oil salesmen to make a few bucks.

5. Do Mermaids Eat Unicorns?

Unicorns and Mermaids probably aren’t real, but Unicorn and Mermaid toast definitely are real. The colorful creations are billed as fabulous and healthy. Recipes vary but the following is a sample recipe for Mermaid Toast: Cream Cheese, blue-green algae powder, chlorophyll drops, toast and butter knife.

Slowly add small amounts of the algae and chlorophyll to the cream cheese to the taste and color you desire. Spread on the toast, garnish with gold flakes! For those fairies a little more concerned with taste and appearance than the Mermaids, perhaps Unicorn toast will fit the bill.

You’ll need cream cheese, marshmallow fluff, colorful food dyes, toast and a butter knife. Mix the fluff into the cream cheese then stir in dyes to achieve the desired color. Can also be garnished with gold flakes! This is a fad that was fun while it lasted, but like mythical creatures it faded away like the morning dew.

4. Be a Man

The proverbial “97-pound weakling” was apparently a thing a couple of generations ago. Charles Atlas built himself up a fitness empire on the premise that 97-pound weaklings would rather not be.

Atlas sold millions of mail order courses that directed trainees to workout using a combination of calisthenics like push-ups and pull-ups as well as “Dynamic Tension” exercises. Dynamic Tension was just a serious sounding phrase that refers to isometric exercise.

Conventional weight training movements like squats and bench presses are isotonic in which joints undergo movement forcing the activated muscles to shorten and lengthen. By contrast, isometric exercise involves no joint movement and no lengthening or shortening of the muscles.

Isometrics was billed by many as a revolution in strength and fitness, it only enjoyed a brief heyday as a fad.

3. Bring Balance to the Force

Power balance bracelets have become popular with fitness buffs and even many professional athletes. However, the hologram embedded in the rubber bracelet is supposed to interact with an individual’s specific frequency and biochemistry resulting in increased strength, stamina and flexibility.

There appears to be absolutely no science behind the claims. Instead, marketers rely on mystical claims of “Eastern Philosophies” to convince skeptical customers to part with their money for no good reason. Professional athletes are always looking for the next thing to give them that extra 1 per cent and many of them are superstitious about their play.

They also have money to burn, but the bracelet creators couldn’t rely on the tiny number of professional athletes who wear the bracelets to make them any more than a passing fad.

2. Pole Position

If you think of strip clubs and dollar bills when you hear the words “pole dancing” than you are behind the times. Pole dancing has earned the right to be known among the proud ranks of the fitness fad. Could stripper poles with scantily clad women writhing on them ever become the face of fitness?

Not in this universe, but pole dancing could become a fitness fad and it did. Pole dancing classes probably aren’t for everyone, but apparently they are for some men since some have been spotted taking part in the exotic activity. Based on research the moves dancers perform while clinging to the pole are pretty difficult to master.

Professional pole dancers are no doubt in good shape, but as a fitness it seem inefficient and potentially dangerous. Pole dancing workouts have all the elements of a fitness fad and that’s what it was. We should find another way to get fit and leave it to the true professionals.

1. Baaaa-maste

This is what it looks like: yoga with goats. But not just any old goats, cute little goats you ooh and aah over as you move through your routine. Some enterprising rancher decided, “hey, I’ve got a mess goats just standing around taking up space — I bet people would love it if the little goats would climb all over them while they’re doing yoga.”

It’s either utterly stupid or sheer genius; and if the photos on Instagram are any indication the latter has prevailed — at least for the time being. But like any good fitness fad goat yoga is most likely a craze with a limited shelf life — of about the time it takes to snap photos of a goat climbing on their back and post them online.

Social media aside, however, people genuinely have fun with the baby goats — they bring sense of fun and lightheartedness to the class. Also, its been proven that you can’t take a goat yoga class without leaving with a smile on your face.

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