Fitness Gadgets: The Good, The Bad and The Wacky

The holiday season is upon us… we just finished Halloween, where we managed to  sneak a few pieces of our kid’s Halloween booty.  Now it’s November,  so Thanksgiving is just around the corner, with turkey and the fixings to tempt us.  And Christmas will be here before you know it… with ham and all the Christmas cookies and candy that you just have to try.  So maybe you want a head start on your New Year’s resolution by getting fit or at the very least not gaining any weight this winter.

Thinking about the abundance of wonderful food and treats that are available to me this time of the year got me to thinking about upping my fitness program.  In doing so, I ran across some interesting fitness gadgets that I’d like to share with you.

Some are really useful, some are… NOT.  And some are totally ridiculous.  So without further adieu, here’s the good, the bad and the wacky.

The Good:

Garmin Forerunner 405CX

Garmin Forerunner 405CX – Unlike previous GPS running watches that look quite large on a person’s arm, the 405CX actually does not look bad at all.  But the real reason for buying such a device is in the functionality, and it delivers quite a lot.  The watch will record your time, distance, pace, and heart rate.  In case you get hungry why running your long distance sprint it will also track calories burned, so you will know if running to the ice cream stand and back is actually helping with your weight loss program.  Once you get back from the run, the 405CX will automatically wirelessly transmit your data to your computer before you can wash the melted ice cream from your hands and mouth.  The 405CX isn’t for the faint of heart though… it is definitely for the die-hard fitness buff at the price of $369.99.

iPod Shuffle

iPod Shuffle – is a great fitness gadget for taking your mind off your grueling workout.  You can listen to your favorite songs while you sweat away the calories and before you know it you’re done.  So if “no pain, no gain” is your motto… you can make it a little less painful with your iPod Shuffle.  I don’t work out without mine.

Nintendo Wii Sports – When Nintendo launched its Wii gaming console, they revolutionized the home game console by pulling the players off the couch and onto the floor.  I love it because it gets the entire family involved and fit.  The motion sensing Wii Remote made it possible for players to play a simulation instead of playing with a joystick, so it was a natural that a game that let you simulate favorite sports would be a good fit.  It was well received, and soon many homes bought their first console just to play Wii Sports (it comes with the console; you can get Wii Fit and Wii Sports Resort, too). Virtual Tennis, anyone?

Walk Vest – Debbie Rocker brought out the original Walk Vest, and soon celebrities were flocking to it.  From Valerie Bertinelli to Rachel Ray, they could be seen out strutting in their black heavy vests.  The Walk Vest included a workout CD and eight half pound weights, and you loaded up the vest by sticking the blue candy bar shaped (oh, the irony) weights into one of the pockets.  The larger vests could hold up to sixteen additional pounds, giving even the biggest wearer a workout of sorts. Okay, it isn’t the most stylish fashion statement – who would not want to be seen trudging around wearing a black weighted vest?  But on the plus side, if you were getting mugged you could take it off and beat them off with it.  A fitness gadget that doubles as a weapon… what’s not to like.

Ultra Thin Pedometer

Ultra Thin Pedometer – What can I say about the Ultra thin pedometer that is not already in its title – it is thin, and it is a pedometer.  But at only 3mm thick, it is pretty much as monikered.  The thin unit by Sportline boasts accurate counting of steps, distances, and calories burned (see Forerunner above for suggestions on what to do on your run).  One feature that sounds really cool is a “laser-tuned sport timer”.  I am not exactly sure what that entails, but a quick search shows only Sportline has laser-tuned stopwatches, so it must be really cool and not just a marketing thing.  I like the lightweight thinness of this pedometer.  And keeping track of how many steps you take, actually motivates you to take more steps.   And did I mention that this device is really thin?

The Bad:

Perfect Pushup – Apparently there is nothing that cannot be improved upon with technology, and that includes a simple pushup.  These devices, named ever so humbly the “Perfect Pushup”, are rubber bottomed, swivel handled mounts that let you get your pushup on like never before thanks to the grip’s rotating action.  But that is not all; they also come with the all important chart showing proper pushup form.  This is important, since you would not want to waste your money on a tool to help you do a simple pushup without a chart to know that you are doing it right.

Ab Wheel – Instead of attempting to improve upon an existing exercise the Ab Wheel allows you try a new one.  You grab the handles, one side to each hand, and roll it along the floor as you stretch out.  Simple sounding, but I like the simplicity of it.  Of course, the beginner might want to make sure they keep a tight grip and their face away from the unit, but overall I believe the concept may have some merit for working your abs.  Of course, so does a crunch or sit-up, which you can do anywhere without the training wheels, so to each their own.  Also, it seems very difficult to do unless you have really good upper body strength to begin with.

JumpSnap: The Ropeless Jump Rope – Jumping rope is a great aerobic exercise, but what if you could do it without the rope?  No doubt the inventors of the JumpSnap were plagued by the same question, and now they have the product to address it.  The JumpSnap has these little balls on a short string that swing around, simulating a jump rope. While you are going through the jump rope motions, the device is counting your jumps, timing, and of course calories.  Sounds really cool, but at least one place we read about mentions that those same little balls can act as great finger smackers to the new users.  But if you can get beyond the potential for pain, I could see how the JumpSnap could be used in places that a jump rope would not work – such as low hanging ceilings and crowded elevators.  Technology really does empower the user.   The reason it’s bad is you can just jump in place while rotating your wrists – pretending to jump rope and save your money.

TRX – We found where the ropes from the rope-less jump rope went to – they have moved to another workout device, named the TRX.  Basically comprising of adjustable straps with handles, the system allows you to use gravity as the weight for your workout.  That is, you pull on the strap as you attempt to lift or move your body.  An accompanying guide shows you how to do different exercises for different muscle groups, giving you a chance to maximize its effectiveness.  One thing that may also maximize your effectiveness is when you realize how much you just paid for a rope with handles.  To clarify, I think this is an awesome workout gadget in concept, but just too pricey and you really need to be fairly fit to begin with to get much use out of it.

NSD Powerball – How many of you have ever played with a gyroscope as a kid (or as an adult)?  You know… the little wheel inside of a metal bracket that you use string to wind up and spin it?  The spinning object wanted to stay aligned a certain way, and when you moved it you could feel resistance.  Now you know how the NSD Powerballs work.  They have an internal gyroscope that spins and creates resistance.  The challenge is to hold it out and move your hand around as the counter ticks off the number of rotations, and apparently 12,000 rotations or so is a pretty good score.  The best news is that the plastic covering prevents you from accidentally grabbing the wheel, something I can attest that was sorely missing in the original toy.  I guess you could strengthen your hands and wrists with it.

Fitness Cube – The pitch is that it takes up little space… “designed to change your body, not your interior.”  It is exactly as its name implies – a cube.  It is minimalistic and unobtrusive.  And the Fitness Cube can double as a chair.  It conceals a range of accessories that make it possible to perform 30 different exercises to work the entire body. I’m not sure how well the plastic box will hold out but the Domyos Fitness Cube commercial is worth watching.  Funny!

The Wacky:

Shake Weight – The premise is that they work on dynamic inertia to tighten and tone your arms. It vibrates or shakes to give your upper body, arms in particular, a good workout.  The commercial for the Shake Weight has to be the most sexually suggestive fitness gadget to date. I’m not sure if that was their intention but it did garner a lot of attention.  I have to admit, I don’t know if it actually could tone your arms… but if I used the Shake Weights, it would be in the privacy of my own bedroom.  And don’t feel left out guys – the Shake Weight is for guys too.  Sorry, I didn’t include the Shake Weight for Men workout video.

iGallop – If you ride horses you know what a workout it can be.  This is the theory behind iGallop… it simulates horseback riding. Its main focus is on your core – the abdominal, hips, thighs and low back muscles.  Okay, honestly, the iGallop looks a bit ridiculous.  It’s like horse riding in the comfort of your own home.  However, I think it’s safe to say that men would have no objection to watching women on the iGallop though. But ladies, you can get a better workout with pilates and crunches. Guys you can do a YouTube search for a sexy commercial of the iGallop (keeping this SFW)… but this video of Ellen DeGeneres on the iGallop is hilarious. When I searched Brookstone for the iGallop it doesn’t come up.  You can now find the UGallop – which in concept is the same as the iGallop.

Sports Drink Dumbbells

Weird Dumbbells – First there’s the Dumbbell Sports Drink dumbbells, a sports bottle shaped like a dumbbell.  You fill it with your favorite sports drink or water and lift away.  You are suppose to stay hydrated during your workouts, you know.  And when you’re done you can also fill them with sand.

Dumbbell Phone

The second weird dumbbell is the Dumbbell Phone.  Yes, you heard me correctly, the Dumbbell Telephone is a dumbbell that attaches to your telephone.  Every time you answer the phone you are lifting weight. If your job requires you to sit in a cubicle answering the phone all day this could be for you.  But be warned – You will look like a tool!  Another thing, I always answer the phone with my right hand so my right bicep would be huge and my poor left arm would be puny.  This has to be the craziest fitness gadget ever!   Ah, these multi-tasking dumbbells are perhaps creative… but definitely wacky.

Underwater Pogo Stick – is the only underwater pogo stick.  I know swimming and water aerobics are great for fitness training.  It’s highly recommended to incorporate swimming laps into your workout program whenever possible.  So in theory, the Underwater Pogo Stick seems like a perfect way to get some exercise and have some fun while your in the pool.  You wouldn’t be able to use it at a gym’s pool or a public pool so you would have to have access to your own or a friends pool to use it.  The rigid ball is filled with water, so it allows you to bounce on the walls and floor of the pool.  The thing is that you’d only be able to bounce for as long as you could hold your breath. I think this could be one of the most fun wacky fitness gadgets.

Prosepra WeSurf – Who needs the ocean?  With the WeSurf you can surf in the comfort of your own home sans water.  Now you can stay dry and get the benefits of surfing. I can see how you could get a decent workout with the WeSurf, especially your core.  By trying to stay balanced and on the board… you could definitely strengthen your core.  However, once again it’s another workout gadget that I don’t think people would use long-term or on a regular basis.  Too weird, wacky and gimmicky.

The Good and The Wacky:

Vibram Five Fingers – For thousands of years we walked and ran barefooted.  Our feet come naturally equipped with shock absorbers and many think we actually do more damage to our feet by running with shoes on.  This is where the Vibram Five Fingers comes in.  Very much like a glove for your foot it is extremely flexible and allows you to have the same benefits of walking or running barefoot with some added protection.  The Five Fingers (why aren’t they called Five Toes?) are from all accounts a “good” fitness gadget… but sorry, they are wacky looking.  I do think it would take a serious runner to wear these.  And by the way, they have an unofficial fan club site at

In conclusion, when you are looking for a new workout gadget be sure to do your research and don’t fall for the fitness gimmicks that are floating around.  You want to lose weight and get fit – not go broke and look like a fool.

Good luck on your exercise program no matter what fitness gadgets you use.

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