January is the month of new year resolutions and crowded gyms. As people rush to gyms all over the country one thing that can often be seen in gyms these days is the waist trainer, worn by women in search for the hourglass body shape. A revamped version of the the Victorian era corset, waist trainers are meant to re-shape women's figures by compressing the midsection.
Made popular by social media celebrities and disfavored by health care professionals, here are some facts about waist trainers and some healthier alternatives to the popular device:
A waist trainer can improve your posture - but only while you wear it
A waist trainer provides fairly rigid support for the spine while worn, making it almost impossible to slouch while wearing a corset. But if used for a prolonged time, the muscles normally used to stabilize the lower back may weaken and waste from disuse, leaving you at risk of back pain and injuries.
Waist trainers will weaken your abdominal muscles
Waist trainers create the illusion of a smaller waist by compressing the midsection, including the organs and lower ribs. Because of this, and the relative rigidity of the device, it will also provide some passive support for your spine. While this may sound like a good thing, as mentioned above, wearing a waist trainer or corset continuously or for a long time is likely to weaken your abdominal muscles. This is for two reasons. One, the passive support offered by the corset removes the need for the abdominal muscles to contract and keep the spine stable, effectively deactivating the core musculature, the "natural corset". Two, the corset limits range of motion of the spine, making it impossible to flex, extend and rotate the spine in a normal range of motion while wearing the device.
Waist trainers limit lung capacity
According to the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery waist "training" can reduce oxygen capacity 30-60% during wear.(1) Being out of breath is not only uncomfortable, but in a worst case scenario using a waist trainer can also lead to fluid buildup in the lungs and cause inflammation.(1)
Waist trainers don't provide lasting slimming results
Experts agree that the lasting effect of waist trainers is minimal to none. Those looking for a long-term shaping effect will be disappointed as the slimming effect ceases once the waist trainer comes off.
Waist trainers will not remove belly fat
In addition to compressing the waist, wearing any corset-like device will simply press fat, intestines, and organs up or down. While it is possible that some water will be lost due to compression, this effect is only temporary and the water weight will return as soon as the compression is absent.
Waist trainers can exacerbate certain medical conditions
The pressure created by the waist trainer can increase blood pressure, an undesired side effect especially for those who already have elevated blood pressure. Those suffering from acid reflux will find that the increased intra-abdominal pressure caused by the corset will exacerbate their symptoms. Aside from causing discomfort in the abdominal region, the increased intra-abdominal pressure can also interfere with digestion.
That seems like a lot of trouble for something that simply doesn't have any health benefits and doesn't work long term.
Do this instead:
Instead of relying on the passive support and compression of a waist trainer, train your abdominal and back muscles to actively support your spine. This can naturally improve your posture, tighten your waist, and prevent future back pain and injuries. Exercises such as planks, leg raises (hanging variation shown below), and back raises work muscles that support your spine and protect your back.
Not every exercise is suitable for everyone, so it is advisable to speak to a qualified health practitioner or athletic trainer if you are unsure about which exercises are right for you.
Looking for a quick fix will more often than not be ineffective, and sometimes even harmful. Everybody is built differently, and training may not give you the hourglass shape you desire no matter how much you work out. But neither will a waist trainer. And unlike the waist trainer, working out has many health benefits. Including actually being able to train your waist.
1. 4 Reasons to Throw Your Waist Trainer in the Trash. (2016, March 22). Retrieved January 15, 2017, from American Board of Cosmetic Surgery, http://www.americanboardcosmeticsurgery.org/popular-posts/4-reasons-throw-waist-trainer-trash