Depending on the number of unsatisfied Ab Circle Pro customers who come forward, the fitness gimmick brand stands to pay out $15 million to $25 million in refunds, per a settlement between the brand and the FTC. The government agency has cracked down on over-hyped health claims in recent years to protect citizens from idiotic, empty promises like the Ab Circle Pro delivers.
Honestly? Three minutes a day of mild exercise to lose 10 pounds in two weeks should be filed under “too good to be true,” and it is. The FTC isn’t having any of that noise.
According to the announcement on the FTC.gov site, “the defendants promised that a three-minute workout on the Ab Circle Pro – a fiberglass disk with stationary handlebars and two knee rests that roll on the edge of the disk, allowing consumers to kneel and rotate side-to-side – was equivalent to doing 100 sit ups. In the infomercial, pitchwoman Jennifer Nicole Lee compared the Ab Circle Pro to a gym workout, saying, “You can either do 30 minutes of abs and cardio or just three minutes a day. The choice is yours.”
Nothing is ever a substitute for hard work, not even a nearly non-existent workout. With a calorie-reduced diet and exercising at least 30 minutes moderate to high intensity workouts most days of the week, a healthy rate of weight loss is one to two pounds each week. A claim of 10 pounds in 2 weeks is not only not realistic but it isn’t healthy either. As far as toning your abs goes, well, that takes a lot more commitment to overall lifestyle than three minutes a day. If your entire workout regimen can happen in less time than a TV commercial break – you’re doing it wrong.
“Three minutes time is less than a warm up. Your muscles don’t even get loose in 3 minutes time – it takes about 5 to 10 minutes,” commented fitness expert Kelly Turner. “But let’s assume you did 5-10 minutes of light exercise before you hopped on. I can do 71 crunches in a minutes. Three sets of 71 crunches isn’t even an entire ab workout. No exercise, no matter what you are doing, is intense enough to create massive changes within your body in three minutes- even if done every single day.”
Consumers were duped in to paying $200 to $250 a pop for the Ab Circle Pro. At the highest price and the highest settlement payout, the company sold an estimated 100,000 pieces to unassuming, well-intentioned men and women who were faced with the deceptive TV messages more than 10,000 times between March 2009 and May 2010. That doesn’t include the times they were faced with the product’s messaging online, in stores, and in print ads.
“The FTC reminds marketers that they should think twice before promising a silver-bullet solution to a health problem,” commented David Vladeck, the Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Weight loss is hard work, and telling consumers otherwise is deceptive.”
Ab Circle Pro itself isn’t found at fault, but a whole roster of people and companies related have been named in the FTC’s suit, including Fitness Brands, Inc., Fitness Brands International, Inc., and the two individuals who control them, Michael Casey and David Brodess; Direct Holdings Americas, Inc. and Direct Entertainment Media Group, Inc.; infomercial producer Tara Borakos and two companies she controls, Tara Productions Inc. and New U, Inc.; and Jennifer Nicole Lee and two companies she controls, JNL, Inc. and JNL Worldwide, Inc.
While Lee and her companies aren’t listed for making false and/or unsupported claims, she is being charged for “misrepresenting that using the Ab Circle Pro allowed [her] to lose 80 pounds.”
A true abs workout involves a lot more than just crunches, or spinning for three minutes on a toy. Turner explains that, “There are numerous muscle groups within your abdominal region. You have your transverse abdominus, which wrap horizontally around your organs like a girdle and are targeted with isometric exercises like planks. The obliques wrap from up high in the back to down low in the front and are targeted with twisting exercises. Your abs down the front are targeted with typical crunch exercises and hyper extensions of the back will target the lower back and upper glutes.”
She told us that a typical ab-focused regimen should happen three times each week with at least two sets of 3-4 exercises that target all the abdominal muscle groups. That’s going to take a little longer than three minutes.
“If you have a clean clean clean diet, you could expect to lose, along with consistent cardio, 10 pounds in around month,” said Turner.
Consumers can apply for their refunds here.