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What is an Ab Toning Belt?

By Constance Simmons
Updated May 17, 2024
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An ab toning belt is a device that is worn around the waist, just below the belly button, that transmits an electrical current through the abdominal muscles. This causes the muscles to contract, as they would in strength training exercises. Ab toning belts use electrical muscle stimulus (EMS) technology to make muscles work with no effort from the user. The manufacturers of these belts claim that their products will create a strong and toned abdomen.

The EMS technology used in ab toning belts was first used in physical therapy, to help patients stimulate muscles that would otherwise atrophy due to extended rest from injury. The type of EMS that doctors and physical therapists use has much stronger electrical pulses than that used in commercially-available ab toning belts. Individuals typically do not have access to healthcare-grade EMS devices without a prescription.

When looking for the right an ab toning belt, there are a plethora of brands available. Prices can range from $150 US Dollars (USD) to about $200 USD. In the U.S., these belts are regulated by the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA prohibits the maker of an ab toning belt to claim that the product is effective for weight loss. So, any belts that make fat loss claims are generally not FDA-approved.

Some users of ab toning belts report feeling anything from slight tingling to muscle spasms. The device can be worn throughout the day, whether an individual is exercising or sitting down to watch television. To see the best results, manufacturers usually recommend using the belts, at the highest setting tolerable, for about 30 minutes a day.

The makers of ab toning belts also recommend that users eat a healthy, reduced-calorie diet if weight loss is the goal, because using the belt alone does not burn enough calories for weight loss. Cardiovascular exercise is the best option for burning calories to lose extra weight. It is important to remember that even toned abdominal muscles cannot be seen below a layer of fat, so, if a toned look is desired, excess weight must be lost in the traditional way.

There are a few safety concerns for ab toning belt users. For one, the device should not be used by individuals with cardiac pacemakers. Ab belts also should not be used on other parts of the body, like the head or extremities. Pregnant and menstruating women she should not use ab toning belts, nor should anyone who has a condition that involves muscle contractions. It is also advised that people with injured or irritated skin, in the area where the belt should be worn, not use the device until the area is healed.

Ab belt efficacy has come under scrutiny and criticism in recent years. For instance, the American Counsel on Exercise sponsored a study to test the effectiveness of ab toning belts. In this, the device was used by individuals over an eight-week period. Participants lost no body fat, nor did the belt produce any toning of their abdominal muscles. Many experts also argue that the electrical charges emitted are not strong enough to produce toning or muscle growth.

Despite this criticism of ab toning belts, they remain popular fitness products. The allure of toned abs without exertion is one that many people cannot resist. Manufacturers cite product reviews, and conduct their own studies that they state show ab toning belts to be effective. Ultimately, it is up to the individual consumer to decide or him or herself.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

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