Exercise Gadgets That Flopped. See Where They Are Now!

- This is a guest post by Ellen Meyer -

Since I lost weight over 10 years ago I’ve been looking for fun and creative ways to maintain my ideal weight. It was hard work to lose that weight and I certainly don’t want to backslide. I’m always optimistic that the next new thing will be the secret to a perfectly toned body with minimal effort. I’m a sucker for gadgets and I’ve tried just about every one that came along - with definitely mixed results. Here are my top 5 flops:

1. The Shake Weight

Most middle-aged women seem to have “bingo wings”, those unsightly flaps under the upper arms that keep on waving 5 minutes after you stop. Some refer to them more kindly as angel wings. Either way, we all hate them. Even though I’m basically slim, I still have those jiggling flaps of flesh. When I saw the Shake Weight advertised on TV, I knew I had to have it. Immediately. So I headed for my computer and ordered it, paying almost $30 (including shipping costs). You can now find them at Wal-Mart for $14 or on eBay for $7.99. Or at a garage sale for 50 cents.

When it arrived, I popped the DVD in the DVD player and started the 6-hour workout. Oops, I meant 6 minutes. It only seemed like 6 hours. Shake it this way. Shake it that way. To the side. Up and down. To the rear. Will this ever end? By the time I finished my entire arms were shaking from the strain. Surely this must be doing me some good. Several weeks later, after faithfully working through the video every other day (and watching the clock the entire time), there was absolutely NO DIFFERENCE. Still as jiggly as Jell-O.

I gave up on the Shake Weight, knowing I would never use it again, but I hated to just throw it away. I came up with the brilliant idea of giving it to my new baby grandson, Leonardo. It makes a pleasing shaking sound and he loves his new oversized rattle.

2. The Ab Roller

Oh, my back! How can this be doing me any good when it makes my back ache? Sure, I’ve heard the old saying, “No pain, no gain” but I don’t think this is what they meant.

I was introduced to this torso-toning tool by my very athletic brother Kevin. He uses it daily and thought it would be just the thing to firm up my abs. He demonstrated how easy it was by rolling it back and forth several times. It sure looked easy.

So I bought one and tried it out. I couldn’t understand how Kevin was able to roll it forward until he was stretched out almost flat, whereas I could get my arms maybe 6 inches past my shoulder when the pain started. Maybe the reason it works for him and not for me is that we have different centers of gravity. I don’t think this gadget was designed for women. Or maybe my abs just aren’t strong enough.

Here's where it ended up!

Baby Leo, don't say Grandma never got you anything.

3. The Pull-up Bar

Okay, I have to admit the reason I wanted a pull-up bar was to show off. It never occurred to me to even try doing pull-ups or chin-ups as part of my routine until one time when I was walking with my husband “Elvis” (he asked me to change his name to protect his reputation) during a vacation. We came across a chin-up bar that was part of a walking circuit. Just for fun, we tried to see if either of us could do a pull-up. I hadn’t done a pull-up or chin-up since high school and I wasn’t very good at it even back then, but hey, I’d been working out so I wanted to try it. Elvis managed to do one, and I surprised myself by doing two (barely). After that, I wanted to continue working on it, since it’s one of the few physical things I can do better than him. 

Elvis picked up on my interest (that’s why he’s the King) and gave me my own personal chin-up bar for my birthday. He installed it in our basement between 2 ceiling beams so I could use it any time I felt like it. For a while I was enthusiastic and did pull-ups several times each week. But then it became tedious and just too much trouble. It is now a very convenient place to hang my out-of-season clothes.

4. The Weighted Hula Hoop

I'm referring to the main picture at the very top of this post. Here it is again in all its daisy glory!

When I first heard about the new weighted hula-hoops, I was super excited. This would be an effortless and fun way to burn off calories! It brought back memories of hula-hoop contests from my childhood. I ordered a gray and red striped one and waited impatiently for it to arrive.

The first time I used it was great. I got the hang of it right away and found it was actually easier to keep it up than a standard hoop because of the added weight. I twirled and twirled. I could do this all day! However, the next morning I realized I had overdone it. I woke up to sore muscles and bruises on my midsection. The weight of the hoop slamming against my waist actually left marks. Why do I always forget to start out any new routine slowly?

Once I got used to it and learned to pace myself, it was kind of fun. I stored the hula-hoop in our family room and decided to do 10 minutes of hooping while Elvis watched television. That didn’t work out. “Can you do that in another room?” he asked irritably. “I can’t hear the TV with all that racket.” He was right. The sound of the liquid inside the hoop sloshing around drowned out the show. But it was no fun doing it in another room by myself. I gradually used it less and less until I finally realized how attractive it would look in my garden, with a bed of flowers planted in the middle.

5. Ten Pound Weights

Knowing that lifting weights is a great way to build muscle mass and kick up your metabolism, I turned to dumbbells. Again, I thought this would be a great way to squeeze in a workout while watching TV. I started with 3-pound free weights. Way too light. My grandmother could lift these weights with one finger. I then got 5-pound weights. Better, but I thought I could do even more. Eight-pounders came next, which were more challenging, but I thought 10-pound dumbbells would do the trick and give me a better workout in the same amount of time.

The problem was I couldn’t do very many reps with those heavy weights. It was also ruining my form. If you don’t do the lifts correctly, you’re doing more harm than good. I reluctantly went back to a routine using a combination of 5 and 8 pound hand weights. I’ve actually been able to stick with that and I do them while Elvis is enjoying his favorite shows. As long as I don’t stand in front of the TV, he has no complaints.

The 10-pounders weren't entirely forgotten--they come in handy as doorstops!

The Gadget I Haven't Given Up On + My Stick-to-it Routine

Despite these 5 flops, I’m not giving up on exercise equipment! Right now I’m using an exercise ball and I love it! I especially like to use it for sit-ups - it gives me a really good back stretch.

I’m also using a pedometer to measure my daily steps. I enjoy Zumba class, and I do 10 minutes of calisthenics 4 times a week. Plus I try to go for walks and bicycle rides when weather and time permit. I’m still able to maintain my weight, although it gets a little harder every year. But I’m always on the lookout for new and creative ways to work in more exercise.


When she’s not trying out new exercise gadgets, Elle Meyer is writing. As the author of Living the Thin Life - Creative Ways to Maintain Your Weight for Life , she enjoys finding new ways to stay fit and maintain a healthy lifestyle after losing weight over 10 years ago. She also recently published Chronicle of the Mound Builders, an archaeology mystery novel, under her pen name Elle Marie.




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