Back in the late 1950’s through the early 1970’s, if you tried to lose a few pounds or keep your waist and hips a certain size, you might have purchased your share of the exercise equipment fads and gimmicks that were popular in those years.
Looking back at them now, many of them seem laughable and some were even deemed downright hazardous to your health! Yet, some of our current at-home, and in the gym, exercise equipment are actually spin-offs of the same principles of those older products. Starting from the end of WWII on, here are 5 of the more popular exercise gimmicks you may have spent hours on.
1. Vibrating belt. A version of this concept actually dates back to the 1920’s, as it was originally developed to improve the circulation of people who were too sick to exercise. It became a popular “fat jiggling” machine in the 1960’s through 1970’s.
Did they work? Many users claim they lost inches using these machines. They did seem to heat up the area beneath the belt and improve cellulite in that area. You could position the belt to “vibrate” your belly, your butt and each of your thighs, but was hard to use on your upper arms. Today’s modern vibration plates work on the same principle of providing intense vibration.
2. The Relax-A-Cisor. The first model was introduced in 1949 but really didn’t catch on until the early 1960’s-70. Over 400,000 of these electric exercise gizmo’s were sold. The device was even featured in an episode of television’s 1960’s Madison Avenue advertising world series Mad Men where copywriter Peggy Olsen finds a more creative use for its stimulating effects.
The Relax-A-Cisor was more of a “Frankencisor” though. You attached pads with electrodes to your muscles and gave them shocks to “exercise” your muscles while you lay on your bed reading, or on the couch watching television. They were taken off the market in the 1970’s when users started showing up in hospital ER’s with abnormal heart rhythms, miscarriages, aggravated hernias, and seizures.
3. Slim-Twist. Now this particular device actually had some merit. Made by several manufacturers under different names like the Gyro Slim-N-Trim, or the Twist Board, it was just a plank of fiberboard atop a swivel device that you stood and pretty much did the “twist” on. It capitalized on the then popular Chubby Checkers hit dance record, “The Twist”. Using a Slim-Twist was actually a pretty good aerobic workout that you really felt. It did help tone the waist and belly. The only real drawback to it was that it left a nasty groove in your wood floors! Today’s Ab-Circle Pro capitalizes on the same side to side “torso twisting” moves that the Slim-Twist popularized for a lot less money than the Ab-Circle. If you can find one of these “twisters” at a garage sale or thrift shop, it’s a pretty fun way to trim down your waist. Just turn on the music and twist!
4. Passive Exercise Tables. Although Continuous Passive Motion, or CPM, moving table-assisted exercise was in use early in the 1900’s, they didn’t really become popular until the late 60’s-early 70’s. Originally developed by a therapist to treat back problems, they started to be used in chain-name gyms across the country and independent women’s exercise salons.
Do you remember hopping on these in the gym after doing your other traditional exercises? They were used to warm up to exercise or cool down, and were actually pretty relaxing. Basically, they are padded mechanical moving-parts tables. You lie on them and they passively exercise your muscles by stretching them as the table moves.
Manufacturers say the passive exercise they produce is equivalent to doing hours of traditional exercise and can help you lose weight, lose inches, improve circulation and become healthier. Today’s versions are even more advanced.
Do they work? Well, many users claim they help with circulation and stretching. For people who may be disabled or have impaired movement from a stroke, or other injuries, traditional exercise is not possible; they may be of great benefit to them. Many physical therapists and chiropractors use them for rehab.
5. Wooden Fat Roller. This device worked on a kneading massage principle as if you were a big piece of dough to roll out with a rolling pin. You straddled it to get at your inner thighs, sat on it to address your rear-end fat, leaned over it to roll your belly and front of your thighs, and kneeled on the floor with one side and raised arm against it to get at underarm and love handles. These were still in gyms as late as the 1970s. Like the vibration belts, they worked a little by revving up circulation and helping break up surface cellulite. Thank goodness for the progress of technology in exercise equipment!