Should You Use a Waist Trainer?


Waist Trainer, also called waist cinchers or body shapers, are compression devices worn tight around the midsection and fastened with Velcro or a phalanx of hooks. They’re popular among fitness evangelists who post videos of themselves wearing them during workouts and demonstrating their day-to-day progress. The claim is that regular wear shrinks the stomach, sculpts the abs into an hourglass shape and, when used in conjunction with a healthy diet and exercise, creates long-term results.

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But medical experts say they aren’t good for you. The squeezing effect of waist trainers increases intra-abdominal pressure and can be difficult to breathe, says Richard Romanelli, MD, a gynecologist at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston. It can also cause fluid retention and encourage the storage of fat in the abdominal area. Romanelli says there are no medical publications that evaluate the safety of waist trainers, and he doesn’t recommend them.

Waist trainers can also lead to back pain and weaken core muscles, says Beth Clem, a physical therapist at Duke University. While she says waist training might be helpful for women who’ve had a cesarean section to retrain their core muscles, she adds that there are better ways to do so, such as working with a physical therapist on posture and breathing.

The best way to slim the stomach is to avoid sugary and processed foods, set realistic exercise goals, and practice a range of exercises that tone different muscle groups, like crunches for the abdominals, lunges for the hips, and planks for the butt. But if you must try a waist trainer, it’s important to get the right fit. Using a waist trainer that’s too small can crush internal organs, causing pain, gas and fatigue. And a waist trainer that’s too large can put you at risk of developing hernias or an intestinal prolapse (a condition in which the bladder, uterus, or rectum drops inside the abdominal cavity).

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