Federal Trade Commission Charging Top-Selling Abdominal Belts with Making False Claims

Posted: May 13, 2002 in

SAN DIEGO, Calif. - May 9, 2002 – The American Council on Exercise (ACE), America’s nonprofit fitness advocate, today announced its support of the Federal Trade Commission’s complaints filed recently in federal district courts against three widely advertised electronic abdominal exercise belts. The FTC alleges that the marketers of these devices, which use electronic muscle stimulation (EMS), have falsely advertised that users will get “six pack” or “washboard” abs without exercise.

In May of 2000, the American Council on Exercise published an EMS study in its magazine, ACE FitnessMatters that concluded that this type of EMS is ineffective, time consuming and—at times—even painful. The study, commissioned by ACE, was held at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, to test the effectiveness of EMS in promoting weight and fat loss, increasing strength and improving overall appearance. ACE enlisted exercise scientist Dr. John Porcari to lead the investigation. For more on the study visit, Wwww.acefitness.org/fitness/ems.cfm.

“We applaud the efforts of the Federal Trade Commission, ACE is America’s Workout Watchdog and these charges stand behind everything that we are,” said Dr. Cedric Bryant, chief exercise physiologist and vice president of educational services. “ACE is committed to protecting the public against unsafe and ineffective fitness products and trends and our study of EMS has now come full circle.”

The FTC is seeking permanent injunctions against the marketers of the Ab Energizer, the AbTronic and Fast Abs, prohibiting them from making false or deceptive advertising claims, stopping them from engaging in other deceptive marketing practices, and requiring them to compensate their consumers.

A common and effective physical therapy procedure, EMS is used to stimulate specific muscles by channeling electrical impulses into the body via wire connections and rubber pads. Although EMS is used successfully in the rehab environment, ACE decided to investigate the advertised weight loss and strength-related claims of the in-home EMS.

Subjects underwent electrical stimulation three times per week for eight weeks following the manufacturer’s recommendations. After eight weeks of EMS "training,” subjects experienced no significant changes in weight, body-fat percentage, strength or overall appearance. Some subjects also reported that the EMS sessions were painful when high levels of stimulation were used.

The study results confirmed ACE’s opinion that these types of products do not live up to their claims. “In-home EMS has little practical significance or carryover benefit,” adds Dr. Bryant. “People need to realize that these units are going to provide very little health benefit as compared to aerobic exercise or a regular resistance-training program.”

About ACE
The American Council on Exercise (ACE), America’s Authority on Fitness, is a non-profit 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 sponsors university-based exercise science 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, call (800) 825-3636 or log onto the ACE Web site at www.acefitness.org.

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