Confession: I own a waist trainer, Spanx and a full-blown steel-boned corset. I use them mainly for dressing up in costumes and formal wear from other eras rather than daily wear, but I am no stranger to the world of shapewear.
In fact, wearing a belly binder after the birth of my last child was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, helping me heal faster from my fifth baby than I did after any of the previous four. (I know it sounds crazy, but belly binding is something women have been doing after childbirth for centuries, and it has serious benefits.)
But there are times when you shouldn’t wear a waist trainer. According to a study published in Fibers and Polymers, one of those times is during your workout.
The current fad of working out in a super tight waist cincher can be credited directly to the Kardashian sisters, who, though they didn’t invent the practice, certainly popularized it on social media.
The idea is to wear the waist trainer under (or over) your workout clothes while you sweat it up. Proponents say it shrinks your waist, burns fat, debloats your tummy and helps you get the hourglass figure of your dreams through compression and increasing sweat. Unfortunately, science says otherwise.
Depending on the type of corset being used, researchers found that women wearing one perspired up to 90 percent less. They also had 36 percent less blood flow to their extremities and, according to a separate study, had 29 percent less airflow. Do you know what you need most for a really effective workout? Sweat, blood flow and, oh, oxygen. The waist trainers also decreased the wearers’ heart rates 15 to 20 percent, busting the myth that they increase calorie burn. (The higher your heart rate, the more calories you’re burning at that moment.) Plus, any effect only lasts as long as you wear the waist trainer.
More: The best at-home workout
There was one positive, however, is the scientists found that waist trainers with built-in boning increased circulation in the torso area due to the “seesaw effects of leveraging boning wires on blood vessels.” Yay?
Now don’t get me wrong. I am not a hater by any means. I love the look of a nipped-in waist, and do not think all corsets are “the symbolic imprisonment of women.” But the science seems to be telling us that there is an appropriate time, place and method to use them. For the occasional costume or under a formal dress? Sure. To help heal after childbirth? Absolutely. For fun? Why not. But at the gym? No — unless you also want to bring fainting couches back into vogue.
Let’s clear one thing up, though: There are many different types of shapewear and corsetry, and I used “waist trainer” in this article only to specify the latex high-compression faja styles that are most popular for wearing while exercising. This should not be confused with “waist training,” the practice of using tight lacing in boned corsets to semipermanently decrease your waist size over time (not while exercising). This is also not the same as using light compression to “belly wrap” after childbirth for the purpose of bringing your internal organs and muscles back into alignment.