SAN DIEGO - When Time Works boasted that its new exercise machine would achieve "full-body fitness in just four minutes a day," the American Council on Exercise (ACE) put their claims to the test.
Time Works' claims are made in an infomercial for the exercise machine, featuring fitness personality Gilad Janklowicz and actress Leigh Taylor Young. Since being released in early 1998, Time Works has brought in more than $60 million in sales.
ACE, noted for its consumer watchdog studies on fitness products, commissioned David C. Nieman, Dr.P.H., at Appalachian State University, to conduct a research study of Time Works, and reported the results in detail in the March/April issue of ACE FitnessMatters.
The study concluded that the manufacturer's various claims—that users could achieve a total aerobic workout, a total-body resistance workout and the dynamic flexibility workout of a static stretching routine in just four minutes—were simply not true.
Moreover, its claim of impacting weight loss—"lose pounds – minute for minute, burn nearly three times the calories of a treadmill, rider or strider!"—was also greatly exaggerated. Study participants burned only about eight calories per minute and their metabolism returned to normal within l5 minutes of stopping exercise. The total amount of energy expended was about 40 calories — hardly enough to be a major factor in body-fat loss.
Subjects in ACE's research also reported that although there appeared to be some heart/lung and lower-body strength benefits, there were no significant benefits for upper-body strength or joint flexibility.
"As supported by many other scientific studies," said Richard Cotton, ACE's chief exercise physiologist, "the energy expended after aerobic exercise is small unless the intensity is high and sustained for an extended period of time. That would not—would never—be four minutes."
The study was sparked by Time Works' fantastic claims, said Sheryl Brown, executive director of ACE. "This machine features an upper-body twisting motion and lower-body stepping, and brags that it provides three full-body workouts in just four minutes per day, equal to more than 60 minutes of a typical exercise session. These assertions," she continued, "are simply not consistent with established research or fitness industry guidelines."
For the study, Nieman selected 12 male and l6 female college students, all moderately active and of normal weight and height for their category. In three separate sessions, each performed a graded treadmill test to determine maximum aerobic power and heart rate; exercised four minutes on the Time Works machine at a cadence of 55 cycles per minute at three different settings; then accelerated their exercise on both the Time Works and a treadmill, separating each session by 30 minutes. Throughout, metabolism was continually measured, and each student completed a survey form, in which it was unanimously agreed that none would be willing to pay Time Works $600 for the small novelty—"something different"—benefit of the machine.
Finally, Nieman reported, "Time Works' four-minute exercise program is inadequate to cause a sufficient stimulus for fitness improvement."
Time Works’ manufacturer, Quantum Fitness, cites research data collected at Adelphi University to support their claims of four-minute aerobic fitness. However, their research methods are questionable. Although the research reports that a four-minute Time Works workout is equivalent to a 20-minute treadmill workout, Adelphi did not release critical data about the control group—which is needed to validate their findings. The Adelphi data is not consistent with established exercise guidelines and research and must be repeated by an independent human performance lab before it is believable. In addition, they offer no research data to support their claims of a total strength and flexibility workout in four minutes.
Time Works, according to ACE’s results, appears to be best suited to the beginning exerciser. While it does appear to offer some benefit, particularly to the lower-level exerciser, the manufacturer's claim of a four-minute workout should be modified to reflect what can be realistically expected from exercising on this machine.
ACE has kept a close watch on the fitness product infomercial industry over the past several years. In the best cases—such as Tae-Bo, the Slam Man and the Total Gym—the manufacturers largely rely on the merits of the product, not outrageous claims, to make the sale, said Brown.
Responding to consumers' growing confusion over misleading claims about fitness-related products, ACE offers reliable, unbiased information that helps people cut through the clutter and enjoy safe and effective physical activity. ACE publishes this information in ACE FitnessMatters.
The American Council on Exercise (ACE) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the benefits of physical activity and protecting consumers against unsafe and ineffective fitness products and instruction. As the nation's "workout watchdog," ACE conducts university-based research and testing that targets fitness products and trends. ACE sets standards for fitness professionals and is the world's largest nonprofit fitness certifying organization. For more information on ACE and its programs, please call (800) 825-3636 or log onto the ACE Web site at www.acefitness.org.