Looking for an easy route to a beach-ready body? I’ve tried a few – Jim Duffy

A big stone was an early fitness 'gadget' that may actually be more effective than some modern ones. Just make sure you don't drop it (Picture: Cate Gillon)
A big stone was an early fitness 'gadget' that may actually be more effective than some modern ones. Just make sure you don't drop it (Picture: Cate Gillon)
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Gadgets that promise to help lose weight and tone muscles have a certain appeal for Jim Duffy, but he’s had limited success.

As humans with human weaknesses, we just love the thought of a shortcut. From get-rich-quick schemes to get-fit quick-gizmos, our mindsets are geared to the route of least resistance. Why spend hours and hours sweating in a gymnasium when one wonderful piece of apparatus can get us into shape with the minimum of fuss and effort? Why run for miles and miles, day after day, in the wind and rain, when one fantastic new invention takes all that pain away.

After all, if the toned and tanned, slender woman on the TV advert says it has worked for her, or the ripped and tanned, chiselled guy states this is a game-changer, then we’re sold – right? And our fascination with toning up and trying hard not to graft for it has meant we easily buy into the next fitness fad.

Go on, admit it, how many of you bought or own a Thighmaster or a sauna suit? Yes, it seems that the last 30 years have spawned some of the best and worst-ever fitness fads that we were more than happy to pay for.

Those gadgets, chairs, platforms, mats, rollers and other fitness “must haves” were all the rage at the time, but alas never really gave us that body that was our dream in the advertorial. Which one did you buy?

One of the best-ever fitness fads was the Thighmaster. This wonderfully simple piece of kit was trumpeted to shape your inner thighs literally as you watched Coronation Street. I recall one of my chums bought one – you will notice I am not owning up to purchasing one of these – and he was raving about it.

The Thighmaster would be his saviour and shape his legs to look slimmer, toned and, of course, beach ready. He did use his Thighmaster for a few weeks, but during that time he put on weight around his midrift. Related? Who knows?

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I’m afraid the Thighmaster was then banished to the foot of his wardrobe – forevermore. I don’t think it ever saw the light of day again. However, I’m delighted to tell you that you can still buy a Thighmaster for about 20 quid online – wait for it – with a 100 per cent money back satisfaction guarantee. But, if don’t want a new one, I can arrange for my mate to send you his for a fiver.

Recently, and by that I mean in the last decade, the vibration plate has arrived. This one I bought into and tried for a few weeks.

For those of you who didn’t, the vibration plate was essentially a small platform with handles that you could stand on and it vibrated. That’s it I’m afraid.

The science behind the vibration plate seems pretty solid. For example, you can do one minute of squats on the floor and burn some calories. But, if you do the same routine on a vibration plate it stresses your muscles more, making them work harder, so you burn more calories.

The problem is, having shelled out on one of these contraceptions, there is a limited amount you can actually do and while the science may be accurate, it’s boring as hell. And that is all I can say about this knee-trembling experience. Suffice to say, they sit in some gyms as ornaments and one day will sit in museums as such.

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But why even bother with equipment that you have to do something with. Why not do nothing, yes zilch, while you shape and tone your body. How amazing does this sound? Enter the vibration belt.

Not only was this gizmo marketed as a stomach shredder, it even worked while you slept. Well sort of... Online fitness stores and local wellness centres usually consisting of a hairdressers with a massage room attached, were only too happy to plug this awesome fitness gadget. All that was required is that you have a high tolerance for electricity.

The vibrating belt sent an electrical current into your abdomen, which in turn caused your tummy muscles to contract and tighten. The theory being that your six pack was there and just needed some stimulation to bring it to the fore.

And yes, I admit to paying for this one at the local salon. I was sucked into the idea that my tummy would be rock hard after six weeks of sessions. Unfortunately, the only thing that was rock hard was the grating of my teeth as the electrical current fired into my tummy. I paid for six weeks, but gave up after three. It was worse than root canal treatment at the dentist.

But by far the best and, I have to admit, funniest fitness fad was the brightly coloured sauna suit. Sauna suits, as you would guess, resembled bins bags stitched together. The science was simple. Wear one of these contraptions, do some exercise and you would sweat the weight off.

People bought these beauties and wore them walking, jogging and in the gym. The only problem was people had a tendency to overheat. And all the water weight they lost was put back on as they rehydrated. Just ask a boxer who has skipped for an hour to make the weigh-in weight. It is safe to say that sauna suits didn’t last the test of time. But there are some pretty funny images online.

As we move into a new tech era, I’m guessing that some clever marketing entrepreneur will have us exercising via augmented reality soon. Simply by donning some goggles and being in the “gym” we will somehow get fitter.

You may scoff, but there are many of us out there who bought into crazy fitness fads, who will indeed buy despite the simple mantra of “no pain, no gain”.