When it comes to getting in shape, some people are willing to try anything -- especially if it can be done within the slovenly comfort of their own home rather than an actual gym. Recognizing that, there are plenty of snake oil salesmen, er, entrepreneurs out there willing to supply a gadget to meet virtually any home workout whim. But here's the rub: While these ingenious gadgets may tantalize you with the promise of eight-pack abs, sinewy arms, and muscular legs, exercise experts say they are far more likely to fill you with rage and embarrassment each time you trip over them in your basement or attic or whatever dark corner in which you wind up stashing them.
So make sure to skim this list, snicker to your heart's content, then steer way clear. They gym isn't so bad after all.
Sit and swivel
You wouldn't think the path to a "sturdy buttock" would be sitting on your fanny, but the makers of Carepeutic Betaflex Spin-to-Slim Hula Exerciser ($129.95, Amazon.com) promise exactly that. While it's intended to provide a complete fat-burning aerobic workout while you're seated on top, reviews reveal that users find it difficult to keep a straight face, "possibly because of the motor strapped beneath it." Yes, you're sitting on a vibrating platform. Write your own joke here!
Give your imagination a workout
Think of this as the Emperor's New Clothes of the fitness world. This Cordless Jumprope ($19.99, Amazon.com) is actually two separate pieces that aren't connected by a rope at all. The weighted balls at the end of each handle simulate the resistance of your traditional rope. We suppose it has merit if you want to jump silently or in a tiny space, or if your feet tend to trip on the rope. But come on, won't you miss that rhythmic thwack, thwack sound as that old twine hits the floor?
The ThighMaster strikes back
Here's a blast from the past! Remember all those infomercials with "Three's Company" star Suzanne Somers touting that glorified leg-lift machine, the ThighMaster? Well, they're back! Somers is now hawking an updated "Gold" version of the ThighMaster ($34.99, suzannesomers.com) that comes with an instructional DVD. Consider this a public service announcement for those too young to have ridiculed the original infomercial on late-night TV.
Perfect your Frankenstein gait
This must be meant for the ultimate multitasker. Not enough time for the health club? No prob! No one even needs to know you're working out as you wear these Under Clothing Resistance Weights ($39.95, Hammacher.com) under your Dockers. Galvanized steel plates are sewn into a soft nylon/spandex sleeve, which is then fastened around your legs. Which does, in fact, make walking to answer the door or grab a cup of coffee into a real-world challenge. Not a good challenge, but still.
Get a grip
Who doesn't want to have a firm handshake? Then go ahead and tie up your digits in this Houdini-style hand fitness trainer ($29.95, Hammacher.com). In case you were tempted to give it a try, be warned: Reviewers note that the tension finger holders refuse to stay put, while others complain that it's just too difficult to set up. So, really it's simply more of a Hannibal Lecter face mask for your fingers.
There's nothing like a vigorous ride on horseback -- in your living room. What's that, you say? Your living room isn't rigged for horses and you're too lazy to head to the sticks to saddle up? Well, you can still purchase a horseback riding simulator exercise machine. As you'll see from the video below, it's available in Korea, although there's no word on U.S. availability. Maybe it's just as well: Can you imagine explaining this odd piece of exercise equipment to visitors? This is a conversation we're not dying to have.