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Updated 12 November 2015

Does waist training really work?

Celebrities like Kim Kardashian are outspoken fans of 'waist-training' corsets, but do they actually work? Biokineticist Habib Noorbhai suggests alternative ways to achieve the ultimate figure.

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The waist corset or waist trainer has created a lot of hype recently, thanks to people like Kim Kardashian and Amber Rose. While women don’t necessarily want Kim’s curvaceous derriere, they are envious of her tiny waist.

Read: What is Kim Kardashian doing to her waist?!

Kim, her sister Khloe, Snookie and a few others recently posted selfies on Instagram, cinching their waists, encouraging thousands of women to join them on the corset bandwagon. 

The elastic corset

A corset is a close-fitting undergarment made of stiffened material and worn to make the waist appear slimmer and the bust and hips appear bigger. No one knows when or where the corset originated, but it has been around for centuries.

Corsets were made from different materials, stiffened with starch or paste. So-called whalebone was used to stiffen corsets even further.

With the advent of latex, the elastic corset came into use, which is a lot more flexible and convenient than the earlier corsets. This is what modern celebrities wear to “train” their waists and achieve an "hourglass" figure.

Read: Latex allergy      

Apart from acquiring the desired waistline and waist-hip ratio, women also wear these garments in an attempt to reduce belly fat, firm the waist area and reduce cellulite. 

However, before wearing a waist corset women need to make careful, informed and healthy decisions. The constricting power of the waist corset is so strong that the wearer needs to be aware of possible negative consequences. 

Dangers of corsets

- Victorian corsets restricted breathing to such an extent that wearers often fainted and had to be “unlaced” to enable them to breathe normally.

- Many women who constantly wore tight corsets also reportedly developed deformed spines and rib cages. 

- Tight corsets compress the internal organs.

- Tight corsets can cause heartburn.

Read: Can your Spanx cause incontinence?

- Dr Travis Stork from The Doctors, who tried wearing one on the programme, said that by constricting the midsection of the body, you could potentially harm the major internal organs that reside in that region. He added that the diaphragm, which allows the lungs to expand and contract, cannot do its job.

- An urologist on the show, Dr Jennifer Berman, added that corsets can affect food intake and cause digestive problems.  

Quite a challenge

Corsets may work well for women who have a waist-to-hip ratio of less than 0.9, but those who have a waist-to-hip ration of more than 0.9 have quite a challenge.

One positive aspect is that the corset may serve as a “reminder” for women to tuck in their bellies, inducing “core stability” and maintaining an erect posture. 

Read: Good posture for efficient functioning

It is also particularly risky for women to use corsets post-pregnancy. The ultimate key to losing your post-pregnancy belly fat is post-natal exercises. Ideally women should also do pre-natal exercises, coupled with a healthy eating plan.

Celebrities may be endorsed by industry to wear corsets, and therefore claim numerous benefits, which means that there may be many non-celebs for whom it does not work.

Do waist trainers actually work?

Waist trainers compress your waist and stomach area, and while you’re wearing it, you will certainly appear more shapely, but is there any truth in the claims that waist shapers can permanently take inches off your waist?

On the website Strait-Laced Dame the question is asked how long it takes for waist training to work. Strait-Laced Dame replies that waist-training is not a "quick fix" and that it can take 20 hours per day, seven days per week to achieve a 25% reduction over a period of two years. This seems like far too much trouble for doubtful and unproven results, and in the light of the health risks involved I cannot recommend the practice. 

Dr Stephen D. Ball, Ph.D. and Associate Professor of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology at the University of Missouri, explains that corsets claim to “spot reduce” a certain area of fat. In his expert opinion that is impossible, and the only way to do that is by means of aerobic exercise and the correct diet. He adds that it is impossible to target where you lose fat.

Exercise and diet

Exercises such as bicycle crunches, ankle taps, sit ups (not crunches), mountain climbers and planks are good examples of useful activities. In addition, one should also do flexibility exercises and consider moderate yoga to assist in stretching the waist and hips.

Read: Aerobic exercise burns belly fat

The right diet of course plays a crucial role, and if you want to reduce your body fat percentage, you should refrain from foods and drinks containing too much sugar, salt and refined carbohydrates.

We also need to bear in mind that there is no “one-size-fits-all”, and that everyone will react to a waist trainer in a different way. In reaching any of your health and fitness goals, there is no quick fix – it takes dedication, perseverance and the right mental attitude.  

Read more:

What is Kim Kardashian doing to her waist?!

Belly or hip fat? All in the genes

Aerobic exercise best for weight loss

 

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