Have you heard about waist training?
It’s the new celebrity-driven fitness craze for women.
High profile celebrities including Kim Kardashian and Jessica Alba have been touting the benefits of wearing a waist trainer for waist trimming and returning to pre-pregnancy shape.
But women beware … at a glance waist trainers may seem the miracle no effort solution for waist trimming but in reality wearing a waist trainer can pose an array of risks to your body – some serious!
Read on now to find out the hidden risks of wearing a waist trainer – especially during exercise.
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What Is A Waist Trainer?
A waist trainer is a modern day corset cleverly marketed by some as enhancing fitness training results.
Manufactured using tight fitting material that wraps firmly around the trunk, waist trainers are designed to slim and trim the waist.
Some ‘sport’ designs are made from neoprene, nylon and even latex while others have inserted spiral steel bone inserts that wrap around the trunk.
Various online retailers are marketing their waist trainers for postnatal recovery and even for during gym/fitness workouts.
For example Onesie Zoosie Australia (ebay shop) advertise their latest latex steel boned waist trainer and provide these options for use:
• Everyday use*
• Wear to work**
• Casual wear
• Waist Training and shaping***
• Post-baby reshape***
*Really? Like on the treadmill or during spin?
**What wear all day or just in the bus? Regardless of the type of work I do?
***So this is going to retrain my core muscles that haven’t been used for more than 9 months and recover my previous pre-pregnancy shape?
Is Waist Training Safe?
Maybe you’ve heard about women in the Victorian era who fainted because of their tight corset causing shallow breathing?
Difficulty deep breathing is only one of a number of risks with waist training.
Waist trainers are designed to cinch in or narrow the waist.
Cinching in the waist increases the pressure within the trunk. This pressure is directed upwards and downwards within the body from the waist (shown right).
Just like squeezing a tube of toothpaste in the middle- the contents are forced outwards!
Wearing a tight waist trainer can have a two-fold effect on the trunk:
- The diaphragm and stomach contents forced upwards
- The abdominal contents and pelvic floor are forced downwards.
Is wearing a waist trainer safe during exercise?
Waist trainers make deep breathing difficult – wearing a tight fitting corset during aerobic exercise can therefore pose a major health risk.
The oxygen demand is increased during aerobic fitness exercise and the rate and depth of breathing increase to meet this demand.
Can you imagine the effect of increased pressure with some exercises combined with the added downward pressure of the waist trainer on the pelvic floor?
How Can A Waist Trainer Affect Your Pelvic Floor?
Wearing a tight waist trainer for extended periods of time will cause prolonged downwards pressure on the pelvic floor.
Forcing the pelvic floor downwards increases the risk of pelvic floor strain and weakening especially during exercises or activities that are associated with increased risk of pelvic floor injury (i.e. high impact exercises, intense core exercises and heavy lifting).
This foreseeably increases the risk of prolapse symptoms, incontinence or pelvic pain for women – especially those women living with or at increased risk of pelvic floor dysfunction.
It remains to be seen from future research whether tight fitting abdominal garments might even contribute to prolapse worsening in some women.
What Does Waist Training Do To Your Core?
Wearing a waist trainer or corset temporarily slims the appearance of the tummy and waist but this belies what’s really going on beneath the corset.
Wearing a corset makes the abdominal core muscles lazy.
There’s no need for the abdominal muscles to work when wearing a corset so they become inactive and simply switch off. This is why prolonged back bracing is out of favour with many Physiotherapists.
Rather than toning the abdomen, prolonged wearing of a tight waist trainer will detrain the deep core abdominal muscles making them floppy and weak.
The deep core abdominal muscles act to help support the spine, promote continence and pelvic floor support with the pelvic floor muscles and promote good upright posture.
Detraining the core muscles by continually wearing a waist trainer therefore increases the risk of:
- Back problems
- Pelvic floor problems
- Poor posture
The best way to flatten and tone the abdomen is through pelvic floor safe abdominal core exercises.
Who’s Most At Risk Of Core Dysfunction?
Some of the women who are particularly vulnerable to pelvic floor and core dysfunction wearing a waist trainer include:
- New mums seeking to return to pre-pregnancy shape – new mums have weak pelvic floor and deep abdominal muscles!
- Overweight women are often already at increased risk of pelvic floor dysfunction and could foreseeably seek to trim their appearance with a waist trainer
- Women who exercise wearing a waist trainer
- Women with existing pelvic floor problems, especially with pelvic prolapse, incontinence problems or after pelvic floor repair surgery.
Key Points For Waist Trainer Risks
At first glance wearing a waist trainer might appear to be the miracle quick fix for trimming the waist.
In reality aside from steering us back to Victorian times and reinforcing unrealistic expectations about physical appearance, the potential health risks of wearing a waist trainer for women need to be shouted from the tree tops!
Wearing a tight waist trainer for extended duration will:
- Weaken abdominal core muscles
- Weaken postural muscles
- Increase the risk of pelvic floor dysfunction
- Delay postnatal recovery
- Increase the risk of gastric reflux
- Increase respiratory (breathing) risks if worn during aerobic exercises – particularly intense exercises that have a high oxygen demand.
Unfortunately high profile celebrities who promote waist trainers for slimming and postnatal recovery are unknowingly doing many women a huge disservice.
Waist training provides a great example of how the current celebrity culture and power of celebrity health and fitness endorsements can negatively impact upon the everyday woman’s health and wellbeing.
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