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What We Learned from the Atkins Diet, the Shake Weight, and 9 Other Health Trends of the Past

The Original Thighmaster

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The Era: Just put it between your knees and squeeze
The Verdict: Chances are Suzanne Somers got those sleek legs by using more than just the Thighmaster. "Because it's isolating singular muscles and not a major muscle group, you wouldn't see results just by using that," says Nikki Warren, Kaia FIT co-founder and coach. "However, it could be used as part of a circuit with larger, plyometric moves." If you want to use the Thighmaster, Warren suggests doing one minute of plyometric exercises like sprints, squat jumps, or box jumps, then one minute of the Thighmaster, alternating for a total of 20 minutes. "The combination of isolating smaller muscles and activating bigger muscles through larger movement is actually a beautiful blend."

Photo: Shutterstock

Toning Sneakers

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The Era: Bye-bye, trainer. Hello, Shape-Ups!
The Verdict: "Aside from a costly lawsuit paid out by various manufacturers for making weight loss and body sculpting claims, these shoes also gave countless people sprained ankles and awkward walking styles," says Harley Pasternak, celebrity trainer, nutritionist, and a New Balance brand ambassador. "These shoes do not cause weight loss, a more sculpted body, thicker hair, better skin, or anything else you would actually want." The best way to buy sneaks really comes down to comfort—and what works for you. Buy kicks from a shop that will let you test 'em out before you dole out the cash. (Find The Best Sneaker to Crush Your Workout Routine.)

Photo: Sketchers.com

Tae Bo

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The Era: Kickboxing craze
The Verdict: You may want to invite Billy Blanks back into your living room. "Spending time with any coach that has high energy, gets you moving, and uses dynamic exercises that not only burn calories but release endorphins, is going to be a great workout," says Warren. The real perks may come down to the social and competitive elements: One study in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine had 58 female college students ride an exercise bike on their own for six sessions, then ride another six sessions with a virtual partner perceived to be more fit (kind of like those extras in a workout video). Turns out, people rode an average of almost 22 minutes when they were teamed up with a partner, versus just over 10 minutes when riding solo.

Photo: Instagram

Shake Weight

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The Era: "From flabby to fabulous"
The Verdict: The Shake Weight is good for little else than a gag gift, says Pasternak. "To begin, dumbbells need to weigh more to actually challenge a muscle." As a rule of thumb, Pasternak says to look for a pair that will lead to muscle fatigue somewhere between 6 and 50 reps. And yes, he recommends a pair, not just one dumbbell. "We have two arms, you need one for each hand." (Find out How to Pick the Right Size Dumbbells for Your Workouts.)

Photo: Walmart.com

Zumba

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The Era: I just want to dance!
The Verdict: With over 15 million people signing up for classes in 180 countries around the world, Zumba is still hot. But if it's not your thing, know this: You can get a good workout doing almost anything if you have 100 percent focus. And Zumba requires a lot of focus. "There's a lot of different dynamic, plyometric moves in Zumba, but it's all in your mindset. If you go in and don't understand all the twisting and turning, and you're just going through the motions, it's not a great workout for you."

Photo: Corbis Images

CrossFit

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The Era: Work out like a caveman
The Verdict: CrossFit has been shunned by some for its high-injury risk, but Chris Stepien, a licensed chiropractor, C.S.C.S., and CrossFit Level 1 certified trainer says the benefits outweigh the risks. "CrossFit is about becoming fitter outside of the gym so you can handle whatever life is going to throw at you," he says. "When people go too hard too soon, if people have issues with joint restriction or range of motion, or have a medical condition where they have no business pushing that hard, then they're going to get in trouble."

Your takeaway: The key to an injury-free CrossFit workout is having proper guidance and gradually increasing intensity. "Ask questions like, 'What if I'm a vegetarian and don't eat animal protein?' or 'What if I've had shoulder surgery?' Look for personalized answers and a coach who is turning unqualified people away, he says. Once you've found a facility you trust, go at a pace that feels comfortable. It's a marathon—not a sprint. (And before you go, read up on the 12 Biggest Myths About CrossFit.)

Photo: Corbis Images

Paleo

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The Era: Eat like a caveman
The Verdict: There's a lot of controversy around this diet. Some, like Pam Peeke, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at the University of Maryland and author of Body for Life for Women, say that eliminating dairy, whole grains, and legumes is dangerous. Other experts say Paleo is great for encouraging people to eat unprocessed, plant-based whole foods. "More recently, the Paleo diet has shifted to encourage people to figure out what foods work best for their own body rather than adhering to a strict list of allowable foods," says Kate Weiler, a certified holistic health coach and co-founder of DRINKmaple. "For example, rice and white potatoes used to be 'forbidden' but are now regarded as part of the Paleo diet by some leaders in the community." In the end, if the Paleo diet provokes you to eat more plant-based and less processed foods, you can't go wrong, she says.

Photo: Corbis Images

Jenny Craig

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The Era: The return of Kirstie Alley
The Verdict: When it comes to diet trends, Jenny Craig actually has the highest level of retention and weight reduction over the longest course of time, says Peeke. She says the home-delivered, pre-packaged meals are high-quality, and fulfill all of the USDA dietary guidelines. But what makes this diet plan unique is the coaching system—former participants can be trained as consultants and are available by phone or via live chat to answer your questions, says Peeke. "You're out there slugging it out, and it's really hard to get off first base without any coaching." One study published in Obesity even found that participants who received professional and peer coaching while on a weight loss program lost 10 percent of their initial body weight over 6 months. (Find out the Top Diet Plans for Lasting Weight Loss.)

Photo: Instagram

Atkins Diet

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The Era: Don't even say the word 'carbs'
The Verdict: On the surface, the idea of cutting back on carbohydrates and focusing on protein is a good one. A low-carb diet can be good for your health—and protect your heart. The problem: when heavy proteins and meats take the place of other good-for-you foods, including fruits and veggies, says Warren. After all, some research has suggested that going high-protein and low-carb without considering your sources of proteins and carbs (i.e. eating excess red meat) can actually up your risk of cardiovascular disease. Remember: A healthy diet incorporates healthy amounts of carbs (energy!), proteins, and fats. The lesson here may be learning to ID the good carbs from the bad. Add more healthy carbs to your diet with ancient grains, like quinoa, which pack more fiber and protein than other whole grains. (Try these 10!)

Photo: Corbis Images

Vegan

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The Era: Auf Wiedersehen animal products
The Verdict: "I choose to be vegan because it gives me unlimited energy, great sleep, and a healthy digestive system—and I haven't been sick in 10 years," says Warren. Even if you don't go all-out vegan 100 percent, there's something to be said for adding more fruits and veggies to your diet. Just know too that vegans might fall short on nutrients like vitamin B12, which others find in meat, fish, poultry and dairy. So stock up on well-rounded foods like legumes, quinoa, and colorful vegetables to get all the nutrients you need.

Photo: Corbis Images

Juicing

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The Era: The liquid diet
The Verdict: Juicing, regardless of the method, squeezes out the water and sugar but trashes the skin and seeds, where most of the nutrients and all of the fiber is found, says Pasternak. Craving an apple? The real thing has about 75 calories and 4 grams of fiber. A large glass of fresh-pressed apple juice has over 300 calories, 80 grams of sugar, and zero fiber, he adds. That's easy math.

Photo: Corbis Images

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