Friday, March 26, 2004

As much as I find violence deplorable, even an ardent pacifist would find this funny.

Fitness Icon Richard Simmons Cited for Slapping Man

Flamboyant fitness guru Richard Simmons has been cited by authorities in Arizona for allegedly "bitch slapping" a man in an airport for poking fun at his exercise videos. Simmons, 55, was ticketed for misdemeanor assault after allegedly striking the man across the face while in line at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport on Wednesday night. Sergeant Lauri Williams says, "He apparently said, 'Hey everybody, it's Richard Simmons, let's drop our bags and rock to the '50s,'" in reference to a series of his well-known videos. Williams adds, "Mr. Simmons took offense and said he had to 'bitch slap' him." The man told police that he wanted to press charges against Simmons, who was cited but allowed to board a plane to Las Vegas, Nevada.

Source: The Internet Movie Database

In the way of celebrity fitness gurus and nutritionists, love him or hate him, Richard Simmons is one of the few good ones. While his so-called “Deal a Meal” has essentially made way for more popular diet trends like The Zone diet and The Atkins Diet, his fitness videos have motivated people to get off the couch to improve their fitness level and, in turn, their health.

Contrast this to those ads you see on late night television promising to give you the body of the supermodel by strapping on a little device that is designed to work your abdominals or your thighs, for only 6 minutes a day, or those ads that say you can drop dozens of pounds if you have a shake for breakfast, a shake for lunch, and a “sensible” dinner.

By now, everyone knows that the nations of the world are getting progressively fatter and fatter. Physically demanding labour is replaced with robots while the quest for the almighty buck has left us with very little spare time to do things like exercise and play sports. Food high in cholesterol, fat, sugar, and sodium is cheaper and easier to obtain than things that are good for you like whole grain bread, fruit, fish, and vegetables. Because of this, it is easy to promote a product that promises the perfect body in a short period of time.

Things like this anger me because they imply that the perfect body can be attained with minimal effort. They also prey on the insecurities of their customers.

Some may remember another product that was introduced a few years ago. While the product name escapes me (there were several similarly named variants), the purpose of this product was to be strapped to the user’s stomach and used electro-stimulation to cause muscle contractions. This was supposed to replace abdominal exercises by doing the equivalent work of hundreds of sit-ups in a matter of minutes.

While electro-stimulation does have practical applications in rehabilitative medicine, it has limited use in fitness, especially for a device that can be paid off in three easy installments of $19.95. A nice idea in theory, but complete bogus, as it seems to forget that it is impossible to reduce fat in one area of the body while neglecting the rest (there are many people who still believe that it is possible).

Amusingly enough, this product was recalled after spending less than a year in the market. People who were using the product were left with permanent burn scars on their skin and were no closer to looking like the well-toned bodies featured in the advertisement.

The only way for a person to go from fat to fit is through permanent lifestyle changes that take a lot of dedication and time. No magic shakes, no 6-minute devices that are designed to tone one area of the body and neglect the rest. Unless people are willing to do this, they will either stay overweight or their weight will fluctuate.

One infomercial that has recently become popular is promoting a variation on a stair climber, which can be yours for three easy installments of $39.95. It features a bunch of very toned bodies and testimonials by people who have supposedly used them. They show before and after pictures, black and white images of people improperly using gym equipment, and downplay the cost of buying the product instead of actually going to the gym. Never mind the fact that one can get just as good as a workout as actually walking up a flight of stairs instead of taking an elevator.

People are going to be buying this product by the handful. And then, after the customer realizes that he or she has been duped, the product will be tossed in the closet to languish alongside the AbTronic, the ThighMaster, and the Abdominizer.

Another reason why these machines fail is because effective exercise routines must be constantly changed as your body will quickly adapt to them, which means one will get less of a workout than they did when they first started using the machine. Personal trainers will tell you to periodically change your workout routine to make it more effective.

Oh, and another thing. Having a six pack of abs means absolutely nothing if you have a five inch-thick layer of fat covering it.

Next up: Diet trends.

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