The people in the Bowflex commercials sure are pretty.
And according to those commercials, Bowflex is the ultimate home gym for fat loss and muscle building. You can sculpt an amazing body by burning lots of fat in only 20 minutes a day, three times a week! You’ll be able to say things like, “I’m not on a diet. I’m on a Bowflex.” Or, “I gave all my fat clothes to my fat friends.” Just like the people on TV. (And we’re sure your friends will really appreciate you calling them fat).
But just Google “Bowflex casting” and you’ll find talent agencies looking for muscular, hairless gym rats wearing colored contact lenses to hock this soon-to-be coat rack for three easy payments of way too much money. In other words, they didn’t get their bodies with a Bowflex.
There is, however, the odd real person who says they owe their new physique to the Bowflex.
So let’s take the example of one such real-life customer, the sunken-chested Mr. Clean clone, who thinks that “living the dream” involves becoming a pasty version of Jimi Hendrix while in some sleazy dive bar. He states that he lost 26 pounds in 10 weeks using the Bowflex.
Using math so simple even a guy with an MBA in marketing can do it (believe it or not, I’ve got one of those), let’s check those figures:
- A pound of fat contains 3,500 calories.
- 26 pounds of fat over 10 weeks means losing 2.6 pounds per week on average. 2.6 times 3,500 calories equals a weekly deficit of 9,100 calories.
- The commercial’s claim of “Only twenty minutes, three times a week” on the Bowflex equals one hour of exercise each week. In one hour of intense weight training, a 220-pound man can expect to burn approximately 600 calories. However, considering that he would burn 100 just sitting on his butt, then the amount of extra calories burned is only 500.
- There is no mention of dietary restriction and in one commercial a model asserts, “I’m not on a diet, I’m on a Bowflex.”
- Therefore, simply being so cool as to own a Bowflex will miraculously cause you to burn an additional 8,600 calories each week.
As a guy with 17 years’ experience with free weights, I decided to give it a try myself and instantly hated it. So I kept trying for another 15 minutes to see if it grew on me, and the only thing that grew was a desire to douse the machine in napalm and hurl it into an active volcano.
In other words, I didn’t like it.
But rather than just inform you that the Bowflex® is a product of dubious quality (it is) that makes outlandish claims of efficacy, I’ll offer a useful alternative to help you really look sort of close to one of those models in the ads.
First, understand that a fitness model’s job is to look that way, so they’re highly motivated and they spend at least 10 hours each week exercising intensely while following a highly restrictive diet. One hour a week of the most awesome exercise in the world isn’t going to change much about the way you look, especially if you don’t follow a balanced, calorie-restricted diet at the same time.
If you want to improve your health and your looks, it’s going to take some serious effort of both aerobic training such as running, cycling, swimming or anything that gets your heart rate elevated for an extended period of time, as well as anaerobic muscle-building exercise such as weightlifting. The Bowflex is a lame attempt at imitating what you can do with free weights, which are superior in every way, including motivation.
Nothing is more important than motivation when it comes to getting in shape, and some awkward contraption sitting in the corner of your living room can’t compete with the TV, phone, fridge, couch and screaming kids. You need to get out of the house and alongside other active people.
Dr. Shauna Burke is a researcher in the psychology of health and physical activity at the University of Western Ontario and specializes in how social context affects exercise adherence. Her research has shown that the highest adherence rates come from exercising away from home in a cohesive group and the lowest is exercising alone at home. In other words, it’s not just a Bowflex that won’t get used, but any type of home exercise equipment will have the lowest adherence rate compared to other methods of exercise.
So if you’ve got a year-end bonus yearning to do its part to improve your health, go buy some running gear and sign up for a race, or join a gym and hire a qualified personal trainer, or register for some boot camp classes, or go buy a bike and start exploring the neighborhood with your friends.
Just don’t buy a Bowflex®.
James S. Fell is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and a middle-aged family man with a desk job and not much free time, yet he’s able to keep in shape because he loves exercise and doesn’t mind eating healthy. He is the author of Body for Wife: The Family Guy’s Guide to Getting in Shape.
A Review of Our Editor:
We have had a Bowflex for about 3 years now and all that it does is sit and collect dust. I finally realized that I lacked the motivation to exercise at home and needed a class. I joined the gym, started swimming, and doing yoga. I have lost 37 pounds and none of that was due to the Bowflex that I own. Don’t waste your money it looks better than it is. Get a support system, join a gym, do anything but buy a Bowflex.