TecherciseAll Rocky Balboa needed to get in shape back in the day was a brick in each hand, a diet of raw eggs and steak, and a side of beef to beat up on every now and then.
You can run with bricks if you want to. If you're going to eat the eggs you may as well learn how to make a proper omelette. And only the very few of us have access to hanging sides of beef and an alcoholic brother-in-law to cheer us on. Most of us either stay active outdoors or rely on gym technology — at home or at the club — to help us stay in shape. You might think fitness equipment — and its evil twin, TV infomercial fitness equipment — are relatively new. You'd be wrong. This sort of meeting of technology and exercise goes back a lot farther than Charles Atlas selling you some springs to pull on so no one will kick sand in your face at the beach.
It goes back at least as far as a Swedish physician named Gustav Zander, one of the originators of "mechanotherapy." That means exercise by way of apparatus. And if he can make up that name, we're sticking with our new word: "Techercise."
Here are some of the more interesting examples:
1. Gustav Zander's "Mechanotherapy"
He may not be a household name, but he's probably the reason those vapid idiots on The Jersey Shore have a G in their GTL mantra (gym, tanning, laundry.) He worked as a teacher of gymnastics, a physician, and a university lecturer at the University of Stockholm. He built machines that were predecessors of popular gym staples such as Cybex machines — providing movement and resistance to individual parts of the human body - as well as massage. In 1911, at the peak of his popularity, there were 202 Zander's Institutes in the world, all offering better health through his innovative machines.
The problem with most exercise routines and machines is that they require effort. Americans are a little short on the effort and long on the waistband these days. If only there was a product that just shook the fat right off of you. That was the idea behind the vibration belt.
Just by standing there and letting it pulsate against your skin this thing promised to melt the fat away. It sounds preposterous — and it is — but around the same time doctors were employed in tobacco ads these things were pretty popular. Entire businesses sprung up around the invention. Like every other product aimed at making you look great without any effort — plastic surgery aside — these things didn't work. As a testament to our gullibility, the vibration belt lives on in many forms today. All of them are useless.
It would be easy to lampoon the Shake Weight in this article. But that's already been done by the good folks at South Park. It is officially impossible to do a better Shake Weight joke than the South Park episode in which it is featured.
(Though "Saturday Night Live" did a nice job as well.) So we'll pick on the dumbbell phone instead. If you're looking for a way to workout at your desk, the makers of the dumbbell phone have just the product for you. It weighs ten pounds, attaches to your phone, and is "guaranteed to give you a workout every time you answer your phone." They even offer a special workout plan — available only in Japan — in which you receive a call every hour on the hour to make sure you pick up the phone.
Remember to switch hands each time, because we all know how comfortable it is to hold a 10-pound phone up to the ear we typically don't use on the telephone.
Yes, you read that right. It may sound like an urban legend but it is true that people, typically women, used to ingest baby tapeworms to lose weight. It was a miracle of early biotechnology.
Just look at this poster. It promises to banish the fat that is shortening your life by the simple act of ingesting jar-packed, sanitized tapeworms. (No word on how those tapeworms were sanitized.)
"No diet, no baths, no exercise! Easy to swallow!" It seems the method wasn't that easy to swallow after all. While swallowing a tapeworm can result in weight loss, it can also result in death. They've been banned by the FDA and the side effects — and medical intervention required to remove them — are enough to turn most people off.
We're still not convinced this is a real thing. The web site looks legit, but the girl narrating the demo video sounds like she can barely keep from laughing while Treadmill Bike users are shown taking the thing down flights of steps, on picnic table "trials" courses and on lakeside bike paths.
First, if you want the experience of a treadmill but you also want to be outside, why not just go for a jog? Second, this thing looks incredibly dangerous. If you've ever tried to get off of a treadmill while it's still running, you know it's difficult. Now imagine that treadmill is on two wheels and you're controlling it with the tallest set of handlebars you've ever seen.
Note: This was written by Victor Paul Alvarez, a Digital Crave contributor.
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