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MayaMohan2 Posted by:
Maya Mohan, Department of Public Health

Maya is the Physical Activity Coordinator for DPH and is (sometimes) a sucker for a good marketing campaign!  

I’m sure by now you’ve seen ads for these kinds of sneakers – the ones that will help you “lose weight” and “firm up and tone your muscles” just by walking around in them.  A bunch of companies have jumped on this bandwagon now and I’ll be honest – I’m curious to know if there’s anything behind this concept. 

I came across this post on the Wall Street Journal Health Blog looking at this exact question.  The American Council on Exercise commissioned an independent study to look at whether wearing these kinds of shoes resulted in any changes in cardiovascular fitness (measured by oxygen consumption, heart rate, perceived exertion), calorie burn, and changes in muscle activity in the back and lower body.  The study followed two different groups of young physically active females and found that basically there were no (statistically) significant changes (improvements) in fitness levels or in muscle activity.  However, several companies who manufacture a version of this kind of shoe beg to differ.  (You can read their rebuttals on the WSJ blog post). 

So, what’s the deal?  Do they work? Or maybe the bigger question is “Does it even matter?” The concept makes sense to me – make your body work (for example, walking) from a place of instability and you will engage muscles to not only do the activity, but also expend more energy than usual to keep yourself stable while doing that activity.  Personal trainers use this concept all the time – well I did, anyway, when training clients.  I guess what surprises me is that people would replace good old-fashioned movement for a pair of magic slippers.  I suppose that the temptation of a quick fix does sound more appealing that pounding pavement.  Though, with all that said, I’ll be honest – I’d try them out! What’s the harm, right? I wouldn't stop being active just for a pair of magic shoes, but I’d definitely like to know what they feel like! 

Do you have a pair of these shoes?  What do you think of them?  We’d love to hear your thoughts!

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