I’m on a mission to discover real ways to reduce belly fat.
In last week’s post I talked about the positive effect of green tea on reducing belly fat. I have not discovered any magic bullets that will melt belly fat away overnight. But I have found ways to assist your efforts and this post is dedicated to electronic muscle stimulators better known as flex belts. But just be aware that to reduce belly fat you need to eat healthy and move regulary. Any other supplements or gadgets that you might add to your daily life will help your body respond, but nothing will work if you sit on the couch and eat potato chips. That being said, lets look at what flex belts can do.
If crunches are difficult for you, then Electronic Muscle Stimulators can help
Using one can be a way to strengthen abdominal muscles to actually allow us to get strong enough in the abs to get better results from workouts. What I’ve learned is that electronic muscle stimulator belts may not work better than crunches – but they do actually build abdominal strength and thats a GOOD thing if right now doing situps makes you cringe and even cramp up due to poor muscle tone. If you decide to get one then I strongly recommend getting an FDA approved belt. I actually purchased one to test it out, and I’ll keep you updated on any reduction in belly fat that occurs.
FDA approval doesn’t mean that it was proven to work - it means……
that it is proven to be safe to use within the guidelines. A word of warning, in the research I did for this post, I found rare incidents reported where batteries leaked and people were burned with acid, also skin irritations have occurred. It is not advisable for pregnant women (and why would a pregnant woman want to send electric currents through her body) or for people with pacemakers or defibrillators (again the electric current concern), or for insulin dependent diabetics since it may interfere with the body’s uptake of insulin, or those with cancer.
Remember the old rule ‘Use it or Lose it’
Originally electronic muscle stimulator units were designed for use by physical therapists for rehabilitation after injury. The evidence suggests that they may actually strengthen tone and firm up an area, but the effects of using the belt are only as long as you use it- unless you decide to do some regular crunching or other abdominal strengthening exercise. Despite the claims for flex belts, all the research I have read suggests that you are NOT going to get a 6 pack from using this piece of equipment, but I’m not on a quest for that. I’m on a quest to reduce abdominal obesity because of the health risks and there may be some value in electronic muscle stimulators for this type of use.
What does the evidence say:
As with most studies, the evidence is mixed. A well known 2002 study by Porcari says electronic muscle stimulators don’t work. Two groups were tested. One group had a placebo belt where the participants received a mild electric current, so that they THOUGHT they were testing the actual belt, and the other group actually used the real electronic muscle stimulator unit. Unhappily there were no differences in lean body mass, abdominal girth or abdominal strength for these 27 college-age students. However, more recent studies suggest that the belt works.
A potent visceral fat losing method
Wang and others reported in 2005 that the belt is a “potent visceral fat losing method”. This study took place over 12 weeks and studied 30 women ranging in age from 45 to 55. Fifteen women received training for 30 minutes per day with electrical stimulation around the abs, technically referred to as the rectus abdominis. The results showed that those in the training group had significantly reduced visceral fat and greater abdominal muscle, which was measured by ultrasonography, when compared to the women in the control group who did not show any changes.
And to add to this good news, another study also in 2005 which found similar results. This 8 week study recruited 41 people aged between 25 and 50. The volunteers were randomly divided into groups and these groups were tested and measured at the beginning of the study, 4 weeks in and after 8 weeks. The results are pretty encouraging. For those using the belt, there was an increase of abdominal strength by 58%, by 72% for abdominal endurance, a decrease of 2.6 centimeters for abdominal circumference, and waist circumference decreased by 3.6 centimeters. Also there was a 1.4 centimeter decrease of front to back diameter of the experimental group.
FDA stop scamsters
One thing that grabbed my attention about this study is that it was in part conducted in response to the many advertorials for getting rock hard abs from the ‘get fit quick and get rich quick’ scamsters. The researchers looked at all the current research, as any good study should, and came up with some sensible suggestions about the state of the research. In regard to the 2002 study which gave poor results, the researchers commented that the stimulators were of poor quality and were uncomfortable to wear which prevented the intensity of contractions needed to produce results. In addition, another good thing to come out of the 2002 study is that it led to the FDA forcing removal of some of not so good belts from the market. Protecting the public from scamsters is something I am all for.
Intensity of contractions get results
But the gem to take from the 2005 research concerns the reasons why this particular study yielded positive results. The researchers believe it is due to the intensity of the contractions that the belt was able to achieve. This is vital to the success of using flex belts if you want to get results in abdominal improvements. The belt used in this study employed pre-gelled electrodes that spread the electrical current over a wider area. The 2002 study used rubber and water as the means to conduct the impulses, which apparently was very uncomfortable. The flex belt in the more recent studies also have a ‘ramp’ function built into them which builds the current up in intensity, rather than just turning on and off as the stimulator 2002 study did.
Length of time using the belts matters
In 2008, another study was done which gave similiar results to the 2005 study. This study does not appear to have been published and was commissioned by Biomedical Research Ltd. I contacted Flex Belt and asked them for research and did receive the paper. Porcari, the lead author of all of these studies, is director of the Clinical Exercise Physiology (CEP) program University of Wisconsin La Crosse. According to his statement the funding wasn’t dependent on ay particular outcome, nor did the the staff of the study have any interest in a particular outcome. In the 2008 study the slendertone flex belt was used. The results were less encouraging in that the slender belt showed that less strength was gained (20% increase compared to 34% increase from the earier study). But the reasons for are thought to be that the amount of supervised training sessions was less in the 2008 study and there was less compliance – which they say represents a more accurate home enviroment.
But strength did improve, and there was a reduction in abdominal circumfrence
All this adds up to good news in my opinion. If this is a safe and effective way of helping to reduce visceral fat, then I’m all for it. If you need to get your abs a bit stronger and crunches make you cringe, then this might be good for you. I’ll let you know if it works for me.