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January 14, 2013

TreadClimber Burns Up to 3.5 Times the Calories?

Filed under: Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:09 am

January is the month when well-intentioned consumers buy exercise equipment hoping to lose all the pounds they put on during the holidays. It is not surprising, therefore, that equipment manufacturers are now advertising their latest contraptions heavily on TV, and making all kinds of claims for them. This week, we examine the claims being made for the Bowflex TreadClimber — a combination stepper, elliptical, and treadmill all rolled into one.

Here is one of their recent commercials. Listen in particular for their calorie burning claims and the amount of weight that people claim to lose using the machine:

Their primary claim is that you can burn “up to 3.5 times the calories of a treadmill.”

3.5x the calories

*MOUSE PRINT:

The fine print indicates that their claim is based on a 2011 study by the University of Wisconsin. MrConsumer tracked down the professor at that school who conducted the actual study, asking for a copy of it. The professor wrote back:

“I am not at liberty to share the final report of the study, since the data and the results belong to the company. Please contact the company for a final report.”

So we did. And Bowflex’s PR spokesperson said:

“Our corporate policy does not permit us to disclose proprietary studies.”

MrConsumer also asked the professor a series of pointed questions about the study and the claims being made. The only one he responded to, before leaving town for 10 days, was to disclose that the company paid for the study. (And as Seinfeld would say, “not there’s anything wrong with that.”)

Having run into a roadblock at the University, Mouse Print* turned to the company for answers to some tough questions.

For example, we found a graphic on the company’s own website that seemed to contradict the 3.5x claim and burning 612 calories in 30 minutes:

*MOUSE PRINT:

2x claim

So we asked the company which was it — 3.5x the calories/612 calories burned or twice the calories/321 calories burned?

[that graphic was] “from a study conducted in 2004 with older technology, in which participants burned up to 321 calories. Since then, we have redesigned our TreadClimber® machines and have conducted new independent research from a university which determined users can burn up to 3.5 times (612 calories) on a TreadClimber® machine vs walking on a treadmill.”

The company also makes extremely large weight loss claims in their commercial.

weight loss claims

*MOUSE PRINT:

Despite depicting users whose weight loss ranged from 24 to 88 pounds in their commercial, the fine print disclaimer told a different story:

“In a recent modality study average weight loss for participants was 18.8 lbs. Average weight loss was 17.4 lbs.”

Mouse Print* asked the company whether they thought it was fair to depict people with 50-70 pounds or more of weight loss, when the average was actually around 18, and whether they thought a tiny disclosure that appears on the screen for just a couple of seconds could actually be read and understood by the average viewer.

“Our disclaimers are positioned after every individual testimonial in our television ads. These appear up to 4-5 times over the course of each :120 spot. Like any weight loss program, all results may vary …. The 50, 70 or more pounds weight loss you reference are real results taken from testimonials from actual customers. In many instances the users state “in about 3 months” or “in my first year I lost” etc… ” — Bowflex spokesperson

In fact, none of the participants who claim weight losses above the 18-pound average states how long it took them to lose the weight in the above commercial.

So what are we as viewers to make of the TreadClimber commercial and claims? Feel free to offer your opinions in the comments.

• • •

11 Comments

  1. There is one thing that immediately jumps out as disingenuous. The first comparison chart indicated 3mp 0% incline on the treadmill, 3mph, “level 12 intensity” on the threadclimber. The video clearly shows an incline and the name of the device, “climber”, strongly suggests there is an incline involved.

    Looks like they just used different terminology, intensity rather than incline. I wonder what a study with an incline equivalent to that of “intensity 12″ would show.

    Edgar replies: The incline refers to the treadmill, NOT to the TreadClimber, as noted in the fine print footnote. However, I believe the comparison is unfair — taking a zero incline treadmill compared to their product set at 12, which according to their manual is the most intense setting.

    Comment by A Reader — January 14, 2013 @ 7:36 am
  2. some info on this:

    http://www.nwfitnessportland.com/blog/cardio-equipment/bowflex-treadclimber-de-bunked/

    http://www.quicktofit.com/does-the-bowflex-treadclimber-really-back-up-its-bold-claims/

    If it looks too good…..

    Comment by james santiago — January 14, 2013 @ 7:38 am
  3. I still don’t understand how people buy equipment like this, or stationary bikes, or someone that may go to a gym to sit on a bike (or for that matter, go to gyms at all).

    Go out for a walk. Ride a bicycle. Go for a jog. It is all free, you get out in the sunshine/outdoors, you can see nature, have fun, and it is free free free.

    Comment by Tina — January 14, 2013 @ 8:36 am
  4. I bought a treadmill for my wife, we live in Wisconsin so the winters get a bit cold. But what the ad is implying is what every ad is doing, they trump up the product and make it sound fantastic. The bottom line is there is no “magic” product that can make you look like a body builder, or a super model. Only a good workout program can do that.

    Comment by Rick G — January 14, 2013 @ 9:16 am
  5. Even though exercise machines are an easy target, this is a great Mouse Print piece.

    I find it very odd that the company and the professor would have found positive results but are not willing to share them. Why bother paying for the research if you won’t even share it when it’s good for your company? Might as well skip the research claims and go for the basic testimonials.

    “In fact, none of the participants who claim weight losses above the 18-pound average states how long it took them to lose the weight in the above commercial.”

    This was going to be my comment after seeing the advertisement. All of the people said they lost a large amount of weight but didn’t specify how they did it or how long it took. For all we know they could have lost the weight without even using the machine in the advertisement.

    My belief is that if you are going to buy an exercise machine, buy the time tested ones and not the “revolutionary” ones. A basic treadmill, cycle, or elliptical should be all you need to worry about. You can alter the intensity on those machines as you wish.

    Comment by Wayne R — January 14, 2013 @ 9:18 am
  6. Diet for weight. Exercise for strength. One or the other and your results will probably stink. Just doing the simple exercises you learned in gym class every day. You can get good strength. Avoid the huge amounts of sugars in everything (this includes most pre packaged foods, and breads). You will find pounds coming off.

    The biggest thing though. You have to stick with it forever. Not a couple of months. The second you quit you will rubberband back. It is a lifestyle change.

    Comment by me — January 14, 2013 @ 10:22 am
  7. Tina, I live on a major highway. There is no way I can walk, bicycle or jog on my street without taking my life in my hands.

    Comment by Anna — January 14, 2013 @ 4:52 pm
  8. What interests me is: “In a recent modality study average weight loss for participants was 18.8 lbs. Average weight loss was 17.4 lbs.”

    They don’t say how many are the participants and how many are the control, but assuming equal, that suggests that the control group lost on average 16 lbs. I’m not sure how significant a 17% increase in weight loss actually is.

    Comment by @mlv — January 15, 2013 @ 10:37 am
  9. I bet the median weight loss is lower than the average of 17.4 lbs. Had the median been higher, they would have used it instead of the average. The FTC should require that median values be used in advertising whenever human studies are involved (weight loss, cancer survival rates, etc.).

    Comment by anonymous — January 15, 2013 @ 11:47 am
  10. I have not run on a road in 30 years and am an ardent trail runner. In fact I just got back from a six mile run with three dogs. Why in the world would I need a sophisticated child’s toy?

    Comment by Rick — January 17, 2013 @ 4:38 pm
  11. I have to chime in in response to the Great Outdoors Folk. As soon as winter is over, that’s where I’ll be. Right now, in my part of Canada, it’s -26c (I have no idea what it is in olde timey F degrees). -32c with the windchill. Suffice to say bounding outside for a spot of exercise ain’t always an option.

    Comment by Blaze — January 25, 2013 @ 4:06 pm

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