Fitness Fads that Are a Waste of Money

Remember the Thighmaster, sauna suits, 8 Minute Abs? Some fitness fads, despite their promises, end up being total flops. And it's all a costly obsession. We spend nearly $30 billion a year on weight loss programs, alone. And now, with so many new trends emerging in the health space, we've got a breakdown of some plans that are worth it - and others you may want to skip.

For starters, short, high-intensity workouts are sweeping the nation. P90X, Insanity and - most popular- CrossFit, use functional movements that mimic motions you do in real life, encouraging tough, full body workouts. But are they worth the price?

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For example, CrossFit, which uses Olympic-style lifting, kettle balls and plyometrics in a specialized gym, can cost roughly $200 per month. That's worth it for some but experts say it's not for everyone.

"The great thing about CrossFit is that you can see really amazing results. You're building lean muscle mass. In a couple of months you can lose a lot of body fat," says Jen Ator, fitness director at Women's Health magazine. "But the problem is that it's not really aimed towards beginners. It also has a competitive culture, which can be great but it can also push people too far and that's where injuries can happen."

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Consider a few sessions with a trainer beforehand. Or at the very least, take advantage of CrossFit's entry-level classes, which beginners must attend before graduating to regular sessions.

Next, beware of gimmicky diets. While they may offer the illusion of quick results, diets like these can actually be quite dangerous to your health, especially since yo-yo dieting can have long-term negative effects on your metabolism.

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The Atkins diet, a plan restricting carbs and encouraging the intake of high fat and proteins, could sabotage your health for example. One study found that though participants following an Atkins-like low-carb plan lost more weight at first, after 24 months they'd regained more weight than the group eating a low-fat diet.

"The problem with fad diets is anytime you're restricting an entire food group - or in the case of The Master Cleanse, food altogether - it's not sustainable," Ator says. "After a short period of time, you might have lost water weight and a couple pounds but you might swing back the other way completely and have been so deprived of something that then you binge and gain all that weight back." Ator says to get sustainable results and actually lost body fat, it could take a few months, losing one to two pounds per week.

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Next, advocates say that dietary supplements benefit those whose busy schedules and erratic diets get in the way of good nutrition. But note: there's definitely a difference between beneficial vitamins, dietary supplements and fitness enhancers. Here you want to tread lightly.

"The problem with fitness supplements is while they may be able to get you through a workout or give you a little extra energy, you don't know that much about their composition," Ator says. "Ephedra is a classic example. It was in a lot of supplements then after the fact we found out that it can lead to a lot of problems."

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There are some that can be great, however. Ator says women should be focused on the "three b's" when shopping for supplements: bones, babies and bellies. You want to get calcium for your bones, folate for future or current fertility health and essential fatty acids to help control your waist line and appetite.

Finally, we all now someone who's fallen prey to those as seen-on-TV gizmos. You buy one because you think it's going to shrink your waist, but it really just shrinks your living space.

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"If you are going to be investing in an at-home product, you want to be thinking about the things that will give you the most bang for your buck. A couple that we really love are: TRX machine, an at-home suspension routine. Valslides are another great one. They're tiny little sliding disks that pack up into a small bag. The really help add instability. Another one is a chin-up bar. It's kind of the basic, fundamental body-weight move that I hard to simulate in other exercises."

A s always, we want to hear from you. What are some fitness fads you love? Connect with me on Twitter @Farnoosh and use the hashtag #FinFit.

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