Can You Really Shake Your Way to a Runner’s Body?

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What if you can burn calories and fat while just sitting on your couch watching TV? It may sound too good to be true, but the makers of the BionicGym claim their product can do just that.

In fact, one of their catchy taglines is that the BionicGym can help you “do a marathon on a sofa!” For anyone who has trained and ran a marathon, this tagline may seem ludicrous. However, the team behind the BionicGym, including founder Dr. Louis Crowe, points to scientific evidence backing their claims.

The BionicGym prototype is a wearable device. Credit: BionicGym.com

The BionicGym is a wearable device that uses electrical muscle stimulation (EMS), which essentially stimulates your muscles to shiver at a certain frequency to burn calories. Shivering is the body’s natural way to burn calories without actual physical exercise. But the BionicGym goes beyond just shivering from being cold; it’s shivering at a deeper level and higher intensity, causing heart rate increase, sweat and breathlessness.

We shiver to burn calories without doing anything. This is how nature has evolved. We thought if we could hack this process, we would be able to burn calories without actually doing anything, as in without as running or any huge gross movements. There’s a resonant or ‘magic’ frequency that allows us to do this – that’s the shivering frequency, which tends to be around 7-8Hz,” Dr. Crowe said.

Related: High Intensity Exercise May Keep You Healthier Longer

The BionicGym straps to the upper thigh and connects to a smartphone app. Credit: BionicGym.com

The device is strapped to the user’s thighs and can be worn under clothes — something Dr. Crowe hopes will encourage people to wear it at work and make it a part of their normal, everyday lives. The intensity of the sessions is controlled by an app that’s downloadable for smartphones and tablets.

“There are so many people who want to get fit but can’t because there are barriers. And then there are those who just want that extra edge, athletes who want that extra 5 percent,” Dr. Crowe said.

Dr. Crowe speaks from experience — after tearing a cruciate ligament, he was unable to exercise how he once did, but maintained his physical health using the BionicGym. The creators say the BionicGym is great for athletes, regular men and women, overweight men, people with injuries or joint problems, and diabetics.

The convenience of the BionicGym device is in full effect. Credit: BionicGym.com

However, the BionicGym isn’t for everyone who can’t make it to the gym due to a physical restriction — very overweight women (around 224 pounds or heavier) are not recommended to use the BionicGym, yet it’s fine for overweight men. This is because, according to the makers, women tend to gain weight around their thighs more so than the abdominal region. Since the device is strapped around the thigh and delivers EMS to the body, the extra fat or cellulite on the thigh can inhibit the female user from getting the full benefit of the BionicGym.

If you want to go out and a buy a BionicGym, you can’t quite yet. Before it becomes available for purchase, retailers want to see the consumer-ready product before stocking it on their shelves. To reach this goal, the creators of the BionicGym took to IndieGoGo to raise funds in order to get their product mass produced by a manufacturer. As of April 3, 2017, the BionicGym has raised over $900,000.

Related: Weight Training May Prevent Osteoporosis in Men

Danielle Tarasiuk
Danielle Tarasiuk is a multimedia journalist based in Los Angeles. Her work has been published on AllDay.com, Yahoo! Sports, KCET, and NPR-affiliate stations KPCC and KCRW. She’s a proud Sarah Lawrence College and USC Annenberg alumn.