What Reebok’s Lawsuit Can Teach Us About Fitness Claims

Reebok went too far and the FTC fined them $25 million. Oopsy.

I have been asked dozens of times on Twitter if those "toning" shoes really helped to firm your butt.  I laugh and always reply, "Only if you walk in them more than you were before."  Turns out the Federal Trade Commission agreed with my assessment and has settled with Reebok for $25 million for making false claims to the public. The shoes don't appear to do anything more than an ordinary sneaker, yet consumers were duped, and not just by some fly-by-night, late night infomercial company, but by a big "they-should-know-better" company like Reebok.  None of the other de-stablizing shoes on the market do much of anything either. So as a consumer, if Reebok is pulling the wool over our eyes, how can we trust any fitness claim out there? That's a tough one, but here are some guidelines ... 1.  Results will always vary.  My favorite are the fitness DVD covers with the big red star on the front: "Lose 5 pounds in one week."  Apparently 5 pounds is the magic number in consumer studies because it's always there.  Know what?  You will almost never lose 5 pounds, and if you actually did, you'd be losing weight too fast anyway and likely regain much of the weight as soon as you reached your goal. 2.  The models never got that way with the product they're hawking. Whatever celebrity, trainer, or just a pretty face that is pushing the product du jour looks great not because of the product being sold but through the usual route:  sweat, hard work, strength training, cardio, and good nutrition.  They did not use whatever gizmo they're trying to get you to buy.  Even Suzanne Somers did cardio and crunches just like the rest of us, not from her ThighMaster . 3.  You really don't need anything. Honestly, a good pair of sneakers will serve you well, but for the most part, you really don't need anything.  Cardio can be done by bopping around your house to some tunes, or by power walking through your neighborhood.  Weight training can be done using just your body weight and some calisthenics.  You should look at fitness gear as an add-on that makes the workout more enjoyable and varied, but is never a necessity. 4.  Buying a fitness contraption won't make you more motivated. From a simple resistance band for training to an extravagant home gym, fitness gear does not magically turn you into a workout fiend.  The most important piece of "gear" is your motivation which has to come from within.  You need to stay committed to your goals and motivation will always win out over the "guilt" of having spent $39.99 plus shipping. 5.  If it seems too good to be true, it is. Those silver bullets look so tempting; the results are so appealing; maybe this gadget will be the one.  It never is, just another dust magnet to throw into your closet. It's easy to get caught up in magical thinking when trying to get in shape.  I've been in the fitness industry for years and I still get lured in from time to time.  But we have to remember that our health comes from what we feed ourselves and how often we move and not from that shiny new gadget on TV or the store shelf. What do you think?  Have you bought a fitness contraption that you regretted?  Has a piece of fitness gear ever sparked your motivation to move more?  I'd love to hear about it. Cheers, Lisa

About Lisa Johnson

Lisa Johnson here. I've been a personal trainer since 1997, a Pilates instructor since 1998 and the owner of Modern Pilates since 1999. I'm hoping to give you some good ideas to get or stay in shape with a healthy dose of humor and reality. Thanks for joining me.

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10 Responses to What Reebok’s Lawsuit Can Teach Us About Fitness Claims

  1. Gene @boutdrz October 7, 2011 at 9:59 am #

    Hey, Lisa…
    Brava! Yea, i agree that the stuff out there is mostly just a waste (waist? lol…) of $$. ESPECIALLY things like these shoes, shake-weight (for REAL?), and that ab-thing….pick one, any one.
    Back in the day, I drooled over the original Soloflex back in the 80’s. Wanted one, never got it. (kinda still want one, to tell the truth…..for…historical value…!)
    in almost all cases, our body’s weight is enough to give us a great workout! you are so right. this is one reason that I really like BootCamp style workouts, like offered on searsfitstudio. (DoBCx!)
    squats don’t seem like much work, until you are on your 3rd set of 15.
    i think that far too often people in general look for the quick fix; almost as if we have become conditioned to do so. i really hate that movement in society. drives me bonkers.

    one of my new favourite sayings is, “I did’t say it would be easy. I said it would be worth it.”

  2. SteveR October 7, 2011 at 11:08 am #

    Thank you for giving us some perspective, Lisa. We’ve all become accustomed to the idea that any problem can be solved by a purchase, while the real solution lies in good old sweat equity. I look forward to reading more of your blog.

    But in response to your question: I run in adizero shoes, because I pay attention to my gait rather than buy some unnaturally thick motion-control thing. Virtually every fitness thing I’ve bought has been ignored, except for one of those DynaBall gyroscopic doodads that I use when I’m thinking every now and then. I’m no athlete, so I find that what works best for me is stretching and just being active during the day, taking the stairs, and walking more. But as for motivation, I like the idea of taking up some kind of activity where fitness level can be tested, and for that I prefer a good game of squash.

  3. Lisa Johnson October 7, 2011 at 11:16 am #

    Very, very well said Gene … and glad you like the FitStudio program. :-)

  4. Lisa Johnson October 7, 2011 at 11:19 am #

    Squash, ah, I’m always bathed in sweat with squash … lol and my husband with his 6’6″ wingspan always kicks my butt. I’m becoming more and more of a fan of the thin-soled shoes although I haven’t made the full switch yet, I do a forefoot strike now instead of a heel strike and have been having much less pain after I run. The book Born to Run does a good job of covering the mechanics of it. One caveat though, podiatrists have noticed an uptick in bone fractures of the forefoot from runners who switch over. I believe some people don’t have the bone strength for it or more likely they switch over too fast and don’t give the body time to adjust. You have to start slow! Thanks for your comments, really appreciate them. :-) L–

  5. Dean Ouellette October 7, 2011 at 11:28 am #

    Lisa I also have made the switch. I recently wrote a post about how i now for the first time in my life am running injury free. And I have been running off and on since high school. It is amazing how corrected form (goes along well with your comments to me in the other thread this am) can make such a difference.

    I highly recommend the Merrill Trail Glove if you do any off road running or hiking. They are amazing!

  6. Cynthia Crowsen October 7, 2011 at 1:00 pm #

    I used my mom’s thighmaster and Richard Simmonds things as a teen thinking they would magically work without the hard work involved. Several years later I’m working hard at it and it’s finally working without the fancy stuff.

  7. Lisa Johnson October 7, 2011 at 3:38 pm #

    Cynthia good for you, in the end it comes down to sweat equity … the most sweat you give the more you get out of it. Contraptions are frequently a distraction. L–

  8. Sonia Simone October 10, 2011 at 10:28 am #

    I have a pair of the Skechers (wonder why they didn’t get sued) rocking shoes, they didn’t magically make my butt trim :) but they are actually great on my back. The shoes feel good to wear and stay feeling good for long walks, which is my main thing.

  9. TraceyJoy October 10, 2011 at 2:22 pm #

    I buy everything from TV. I probably have it somewhere in the house, honestly. I didn’t get the toning shoes, somehow I knew they were not gonna work. I bought the swinging leg machine, this top 10 body trainer for women it was a big pink machine. Got it from HSN Brenda DyGraff was the ladies name he marketed that and the swinging leg machine, whatever it was called. The pink home gym trainer become my bath robe holder. Suzanne Somers had this iron board looking ab push out roller thingy… all that did was make my upper body look like I could play on the Patriots front line. I still had my belly. I have more DVD and VHS tapes to fill a large dumpster. I started donating them to the library and they get checked out. I re-introduced myself to VHS tapes of Jane Fonda Workout and The classic Callanetics series from Callan Pinckney. I’ve been doing both VHS tapes now for 2 weeks already seeing difference in legs, thighs, hips and butt. Go back to what works. This along with walking is what is working for me right now. I won’t go broke anymore buying unnecessary fitness furniture that I’ll never use again.

  10. Lisa Johnson October 12, 2011 at 1:29 am #

    TraceyJoy, glad you found your happy place with fitness equipment. While lots of props are good and useful they are tools only and won’t make you more or less fit … YOU working out will make you more fit, YOU not working out will make you less fit. At the end of the day, props and contraptions can help, but you have to show up and sweat. L–

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