As Seen on TV: Fitness Infomercial Gadgets to the Test

Bonnie Holland/Fitness MagazineBonnie Holland/Fitness MagazineBy Stephanie Dolgoff

Our channel-surfing investigative reporter answers the siren call of late-night infomercials to find out which gadgets shape, slim, stir, poach, and primp as promised.

Related: Get the Full List of Infomercial Products Tested

The Ab Doer Twist
In my opinion a great abdominal device is one that does the exercises for you. If I can't have that, I would like one that makes them marginally more enjoyable so I at least want to do them.

The first contraption to arrive was the Ab Doer Twist, a sort of swivel chair with a flexible back rod and high armrests that allows you to pivot away your muffin top by targeting those often-missed oblique muscles along the sides of your waist. Not complicated. And I did feel the sit-and-cinch sensation as I ran through the recommended exercises, just like the girl in the infomercial.

Only the thing is huge, bigger than any piece of furniture in my house except the sofa. Sure, you can use it to firm other muscles -- it comes with resistance bands and a DVD that shows you how to get a total-body workout -- but there are far better ways to whip yourself into shape than dancing around a big orange throne.

Should You Buy?
The Ab Doer Twist ($215,
No. It might shrink your waist, but it definitely shrinks your space.

Bonnie Holland/Fitness MagazineBonnie Holland/Fitness MagazineThe Perfect Situp
Meanwhile, the more compact Perfect Situp...wasn't. The device is a sort of backrest with metal strips that connect to stir­rups and a neck support. The idea is that it makes crunches and the like both dummy-proof and doubly challenging because of the added resistance. The neck support was uncomfortable, and despite a cool clicking alert when you hit optimal crunch height, the device didn't improve my form much. A hanger attachment meant it did stow nicely in my closet, where I could ignore it more easily.

Should You Buy?

Perfect Situp ($99,
No. Just get down and give me 20.

Related: The 2012 FITNESS Sneaker Guide

Bonnie Holland/Fitness MagazineBonnie Holland/Fitness MagazineThe Door Gym
The next gadget I tried was a removable chin-up bar that you can rest securely on most door frames or use on the floor for push-ups and sit-ups. Thanks to the Door Gym, I can now almost do one pull-up, and I have actually been cranking out more push-ups because holding the bar is easier on my wrists. Of course you still have to do the exercises. It won't help if it's sitting in your closet, in which it will fit quite well. I was hoping for a quick, cheaty route to Madonna arms.

Should You Buy?
Door Gym ($47,
Maybe. This could inspire you to do more pull-ups, push-ups, and sit-ups.

Bonnie Holland/Fitness MagazineBonnie Holland/Fitness MagazineGaiam Mini Stepper
I had always fantasized about having my own cardio machine, and the Gaiam Mini Stepper had the benefit of being tiny. It's a stairclimber about the size of your microwave, with resistance bands, so you can march along and crank out biceps curls to burn calories. While the Mini Stepper offers only an up or down motion, for its price I got a good workout in front of an entire season of Downton Abbey on Netflix.

Should You Buy?
Gaiam Mini Stepper ($79,
Yes. Get compact cardio when you can't make it to the gym.

Related: Go Gadgets: Foolproof Activity Trackers

Bonnie Holland/Fitness MagazineBonnie Holland/Fitness Magazine3-Minute Legs
The silliest contraption, however, had to be 3-Minute Legs, an inverted-V-shaped hobbyhorse on wheels that supports you as you squat and lunge and adds resis­tance with rubber banding. My daughters were peeing in their pants laughing at me as I bopped up and down on this thing. I am five foot nine, so even on the tallest setting, it didn't spot me quite enough.

"Mommy, you could just do lunges without this thing, right?" my daughter Sasha asked. Right.

Should You Buy?
3-Minute Legs ($114,
No. You shouldn't have to pay for a free lunge.

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