Do Electronic Muscle Stimulators Help You Burn Fat?

Q: I’ve seen commercials for “no-effort” exercise devices that stimulate muscle contractions with electrical impulses.  Do these products really help people build muscle or slim down?

A: No.  An electronic muscle stimulator is a device that repeatedly shock muscles force rapid muscular contractions, which can stimulate the growth of muscle fibers.

Electronic muscle stimulators are a proven, efficient way of treating muscle injuries by the transmission of electronic pulses that causes passive exercise. The stimulation, contraction and relaxation cycle of an electronic muscle stimulator (EMS) loosens muscle fibers, increases blood flow and stimulates muscle growth. But, any gains from these devices are minimal at best.

Even the best units, used to rehabilitate injured people, do little more than partially prevent muscle atrophy.  Without regular exercise, electrical stimulation will not foster noticeable muscle-size or strength, or burn sufficient calories to cause meaningful weight loss.  And results from units like those you’ve seen advertised may be even more disappointing.

A study of one popular model found that stimulating the major muscles of the arms, legs, and abdomen for 45 minutes three times a week for two months did not significantly change the participants’ strength, weight, body fat, or overall appearance.

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About Dave Barnas, M.S., CES, NASM-CPT

Dave is the true health guy. He is the founder and owner of True Health Unlimited, LLC, a personal health and fitness company in Tolland, CT & Wellness Writers, a subscription wellness newsletter service that incorporates live & virtual wellness workshops for companies across New England. Dave earned both a Bachelor's (1998) and Master's Degree (2000) in Nutritional Science from the University of Connecticut, and also holds certifications as a National Strength and Conditioning Association Certified Personal Trainer, National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer and Corrective Exercise Specialist, Aerobics and Fitness Association of America Group Instructor, and Nutrition Specialist. He's also the lead author for four published works. Dave has over 20 years of combined experience in nutrition counseling, dietary supplement advising, personal training, corrective exercise training, health coaching and public speaking. In addition, he's spent over 25 years studying spirituality, meditation, and personal growth strategies. Dave's clients are all ages: youth, college championship level athletes, folks in their retired years, and everywhere in between. He's worked with three of the nation's leading physicians as a dietary supplement advisor and been a guest lecturer at Harvard University, Yale University, UConn, St. Joseph College and various church groups, health clubs, and high schools. In 2013, he was invited to Whole Foods Market to share his Real Food Therapy Guide. And in 2015, Dave's funny "Snowga" (yoga in the snow) video caught the attention of The National Weather Channel, who aired it to shake off cabin fever and bring laughter. In 2016, Dave & Hollie (his wife) founded Wellness Writers and deliver evidence-based Wellness E-newsletters to spread a message of health and happiness to various businesses throughout the US. Dave currently serves as a personal trainer in Tolland as well as a wellness coach and writer for several businesses, gyms and wellness facilities throughout the US.

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