Remember When There Weren’t All These Fitness Devices?

It seems like every time I have to move my belt out another notch there is another fitness device being marketed.

My first introduction to exercise devices was watching my grandfather use the stairs.  He was the original stairmaster.  Whenever he and my grandmother came to visit us for Mother’s Day or Rosh Hashanah, my grandfather would spend time each evening going up and down the short staircase from our foyer to the living room, climbing up the three steps and then immediately climbing down in reverse, over and over again, until my grandmother told him to knock it off and sit down for their evening dose of gin rummy.

In my twenties, when I was single, I decided that the only obstacle to true love was that I did not have those six-pack abdominals.  So I invested $19.95 plus tax and shipping in a device called the Ab Wheel.  The Ab Wheel consisted of two small wheels pressed together, maybe ten inches in diameter, with a small axle running between and handles on either end of the axle so that you could grip it with both hands.

The starting position was flat on you stomach, gripping the axle with your hands.  Then you pulled the Ab Wheel, rolling it towards your midsection, while keeping your toes in the same spot so that you simultaneously bent at the waist and stuck your rear end in the air ever so briefly before going back to start and repeating the exercise.  It was like imitating a folding table, and would have been the perfect device if I’d been able to do more than one repetition before collapsing on the floor.

Then I saw an infomercial for something called the EMS-7500 Muscle Stimulator.  It consisted of four electrodes connected to wires that ran into a small computerized console.  You stuck the electrodes on to your stomach, turned on the computer, and without your doing anything, electrical impulses would be sent to your abdominals at regular intervals, causing the muscles to twitch and in so doing burn off the fat that was hiding millions of sexy stomachs across America.  I could see that the advantages of the Muscle Stimulator were that you did not have to leave your chair or bar stool, and you could pretend to be the subject of a scientific experiment.

For a few moments I considered getting one.  Then I realized I would be paying to electrocute myself.  If I was going to get in shape, I was obviously going to have to work at it, day after day, in good weather and bad.  That’s when I decided to go to law school.

Just the other day I saw an advertisement for a new weight-loss device.  Except it’s not a device at all.  It is a powder that you sprinkle on any food, and it magically reduces the caloric value.  The commercial showed some very in-shape people prancing around a breach and sprinkling this product on hamburgers, pizza, and ice cream.

This must be the greatest invention of all time.  No gym, no running, no electrocution.  It is as if finding the right device came down to simply finding something that would help a person lose weight without requiring any effort.  No more lifting weights.  No more crunches on those giant beach balls.  No more trying to figure out what to do with your keys and wallet.

Of course, it is only a matter of time before someone decides that there is a market for a device that doesn’t require any sprinkling.  The infomercial will show a black and white video of someone sprinkling the magic diet powder on their fudge sundae, and the voice-over will say, “Tired of all that pesky sprinkling?” as the black and white image is crossed with a giant red X.  “Well, now you don’t have to.  Try the ‘Being Comfortable With Your Body 9000’ and you’ll never have to sprinkle again.”

There will be testimonials from people who have tried the Being Comfortable With Your Body 9000, and they will all say how it transformed their lives.  They will also all have the bodies of Olympians.  But the customers at home won’t care about that.  All they will care about is the smiles, and that the product doesn’t require any effort, or electricity, or ingestion, but only a positive attitude and three easy payments of $19.95.

8 thoughts on “Remember When There Weren’t All These Fitness Devices?

  1. Some of these devices are just laughable. I guess there is a sucker born every minute.
    Anyone else remember the President’s Fitness Council (or sumpin’ like that)?
    We used to take this fitness test in Jr. High and if you scored high enough you got a red, blue or gold patch for your gym shorts.
    No fancy machines; push-ups, pull up, running and throwing a softball.
    We ran up and down the stadium to get in shape. The football stadium was already paid for.

  2. Ugh. Fitness tests. I was okay in everything except flexed arm hang. There went my Excellence badge…

    I’ve discovered My Fitness Pal. It’s an app. I mostly like it because I can scan barcodes, which makes me feel like I’m on Star Trek (or the check-out girl).

    1. The flexed arm hang sounds familiar, but all I can picture is having to do pull-ups. I remember each year my goal was to do just one and I never succeeded. The failure haunts me today. But maybe I should take up scanning barcodes. That sounds a lot easier, and I’ve gotten a lot of practice at the automatic checkout line at my local supermarket.

    1. That’s pretty much how I ended my essay on “Aladdin’s Lamp” in the 9th grade. There are no magic lamps, but only hard work. And I typed it “H-A-R-D W-O-R-K” to really drive the point home.

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