The Aftermath of Waist Trainers Unraveled

You may have noticed an increasing number of women sporting trendy waist trainers, which promise to shape the perfect hourglass figure. But do these compression devices really deliver on their claims? According to Michael Clem, a physical therapist at Spaulding Rehabilitation Network, the evidence doesn't quite match the hype.

Clem explains that many people are drawn to waist trainers due to the allure of a quick fix. It seems effortless to wrap something around your waist, just like wearing pants or a belt. However, achieving lasting results through diet and exercise requires more commitment and lifestyle changes. While we may know what needs to be done, we often seek alternatives to avoid the hard work.

Debunking the Common Claims

Let's explore four common claims made about waist trainers, as debunked by Clem, and discover one situation where they might actually be helpful.

1. Spot-reduce fat

Despite the belief that waist trainers can compress fat and help reduce it in specific areas, Clem clarifies that fat deposits are systemic and cannot be selectively targeted. Merely wearing a waist trainer will not burn fat in that particular spot.

2. Sweat away the inches

While wearing a waist trainer might make you perspire more profusely, this increased sweating does not equate to fat loss in that specific area. Sweat is primarily the body's mechanism for cooling, and although calories are expended during sweating, it doesn't mean those calories are solely derived from the area being perspired.

3. Eat less due to belly compression

Orthopedic braces or compression sleeves can raise awareness of a specific body part, potentially leading to altered behaviors. However, Clem argues that the abdomen doesn't have the same level of sensitivity, and wearing a waist trainer is unlikely to affect the body's perception of fullness.

4. Build a stronger core

Waist trainers may be recommended by doctors for temporary use after surgeries like cesarean sections, hernia repairs, or appendectomies to provide measurable feedback on abdominal muscle usage during recovery. However, there are other, more effective ways to improve core awareness, such as working with a physical therapist on posture and breathing techniques.

In general, trying a waist trainer is unlikely to cause harm unless you are pregnant or have underlying health issues. It is always recommended to consult with your doctor before compressing your core, as it may impact your ability to breathe deeply and comfortably.

Shaping the Waist with Core Strengthening Exercises

Instead of relying on waist trainers, consider incorporating these three core-strengthening exercises into your routine. Start with one set and gradually increase to optimize results while paying close attention to proper form:

1. Bridge

- Reps: 10

- Sets: 1–3

- Tempo: 3–1–3

- Rest: 30–90 seconds between sets

Starting position: Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor, hip-width apart. Keep your arms at your sides and relax your shoulders against the floor.

Movement: Tighten your buttocks and lift your hips off the floor until they align with your knees and shoulders. Hold this position and then return to the starting position.

Tips and techniques:

  • Tighten your buttocks before lifting.
  • Maintain even alignment of your shoulders, hips, knees, and feet.
  • Keep your shoulders relaxed against the floor.

2. Opposite Arm and Leg Raise

- Reps: 10

- Sets: 1–3

- Tempo: 3–1–3

- Rest: 30–90 seconds between sets

Starting position: Kneel on all fours, aligning your hands and knees directly under your shoulders and hips. Maintain a neutral head and spine position.

Movement: Extend your left leg backward while reaching your right arm forward. Try to bring the lifted leg and arm parallel to the floor while keeping your hips and shoulders squared. Hold this position, then return to the starting position and repeat with the opposite leg and arm. Complete one rep.

Tips and techniques:

  • Ensure your shoulders and hips remain squared throughout the movement.
  • Maintain a neutral head and spine position.
  • Imagine elongating your torso by pulling your hand and leg in opposite directions.

3. Stationary Lunge

- Reps: 8–12 (each side)

- Sets: 1–3

- Tempo: 3–1–3

- Rest: 30–90 seconds between sets

Starting position: Stand upright with your right foot positioned one to two feet in front of your left foot. Place your hands on your hips. Shift your weight forward and lift your left heel off the floor.

Movement: Bend your knees and lower your torso straight down until your right thigh is approximately parallel to the floor. Hold this position, then return to the starting position. Perform all reps with the right foot forward, then repeat with the left foot forward. This completes one set.

Tips and techniques:

  • Ensure your front knee is directly above your ankle.
  • Keep your shoulders, hips, and rear knee aligned during the lunge.
  • Maintain a neutral spine and keep your shoulders down and back.

William H. McDaniel, MD

Dr. Robert H. Shmerling is the former clinical chief of the division of rheumatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), and is a current member of the corresponding faculty in medicine at Harvard Medical School.

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