The truth about Toning Tables

Toning table salons have been opening up all over the country, many of them promising spectacular inch-loss results.  But do they really work?
Some toning table manufacturers make very specific claims for their machines.
Spectacular inch loss after only a short course:  No independent scientific study on toning tables has been carried out in this country.  But, unless you are dieting at the same time, inch loss is unlikely to be very spectacular in any one area in just 6 - 10 sessions, in fact it is likely to be negligible.  Measuring a client is extremely difficult,  an ordinary tape can stretch, tapes slip and can easily be pulled slightly tighter from one measurement to another.  A fraction of an inch may seem unimportant but if you are measuring about 10 different places, half an inch each time would add up to a grand total of five inches.  Toning table salons give inch loss as a total of areas measured.

Hospital physiotherapists say: It can take anything from one to three months to tone up muscles, depending on how frequently you exercise.  But muscles lose strength a lot faster than they gain it.  You need to exercise muscles at least twice a week to maintain any tone they have gained through exercise.

Tone, firm, re-energise and tighten muscles: To tone muscles they need to contract and relax.  The more you do this, the tighter they become.  To improve strength you also need to overcome some sort of resistance.  If you lie on a bed and let it stretch you in different directions, this will certainly move the muscles, but in order to firm and tone them you need to put some effort in yourself.  That's why you are often asked to flex muscles or push against the machines.

Hospital physiotherapist: Muscles have to work to improve.  If, for example, you bend your right hand backwards you will be exercising and strengthening the wrist muscles.  If a machine lifts your hand, then it is doing all the work.

Exercise without effort, no fatigue or sweat: Although you can just lie there and let the machines move your limbs, you will usually be encouraged to do more work by pulling in muscles and stretching and flexing.  But this certainly wouldn't be enough to work up a sweat.

Hospital physiotherapist:  Exercise without effort is useless.  Although I wouldn't suggest you pushed yourself too far, a feeling of fatigue in the muscles is a sign that you have worked them hard.

Better mobility and flexibility.  If you haven't exercised for years any session which stretches and moves your muscles will make you more mobile and flexible.  If you already do some form of exercise, such as a stretch class or aerobics, then the machines probably won't make you any more flexible than you already are.

Hospital physiotherapist:  Stretches are normally a prelude to more strenuous exercise.  If stretches are done with the intention of increasing muscle flexibility, then the stretches really need to proceed slightly beyond the point of comfort.

Changing the shape of your body:  Nothing you can do will ever change your basic shape.  If you are a traditional English pear - wide at the hips and narrow on top - then you will always be that way.  Dieting will reduce the excess fat that seems to linger in problem areas and exercise will help to tone up slack muscles.  But there is no guarantee you will end up a perfect shape.

Hospital physiotherapist:  At your correct weight your body will certainly look better when muscles are toned and act like a natural corset.  If you are very overweight this muscle tone won't be visible.

THE  VERDICT

Toning tables can make you more flexible and, to a degree, help toning through the isometric tensing and releasing of muscles.  However, if you are seeking real inch loss, forget toning tables.  Remember the only effective way to lose weight is to cut down the amount you eat and drink and to increase your activity levels.  You're better off going on a diet and taking exercise that works your heart.  Walking, cycling and swimming are highly recommended aerobic activities that don't rely on expensive salon visits.
Nevertheless, toning tables do have their fans who report that they feel better after a course.  Here there is the psychological effect to be considered.  Simply being weighed, measured and monitored is enough to give some people the incentive to diet.  Being pampered at the salon can give a valuable boost to self-esteem.  At between £6 and £12 an hour, toning tables are a very expensive and scientifically unproven way to try to tone your muscles.  Our advice is to take up a more proven exercise plan.