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The truth (science) behind waist corsets

Dedication, perseverance and mind over matter, NOT a waist corset or a quick-fix

In women’s health, the waist corset or waist trainer has created plenty of hype in recent times, as well as improvements in the design of the corset in the last few decades. A number of women around the globe have started to use these in order to acquire the desired waistline and waist-to-hip ratio. Many of which need such a garment for a variety of reasons: reducing belly fat, firming the waist area, reducing cellulite or for having a slimmer waist.

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Women need to make careful, informed and healthy decisions before considering a waist corset. The elasticity of the corset is so significant that it can affect any type of change, whether positive or negative. However, there are both pros and cons to such an intervention and/or item. It might work better for ladies who have a waist-to-hip ratio of less than 0.9 but what about those who have a waist-to-hip ratio of more than 0.9? This would be particularly challenging.

One positive aspect is that the corset may serve as a ‘reminder’ for tucking in your belly, hence core stability exercises are induced. Thus reminding you of maintaining an erect posture that is a key feature of adequate waist circumferences and strength. If it is fit on too tightly, it can cause some discomfort, difficulty breathing and heartburn. It is also particularly risky for women to use it post-pregnancy. The ultimate key to losing your post-pregnancy belly fat is post-natal exercises. This should be coupled with pre-natal exercises at the three trimesters of your labour accompanied with a healthy eating plan.

With waist management, there are other integral factors that one can’t miss and forget: nutrition, targeted training, footwear and activities during the day. Celebrities are probably endorsed by industry to wear these and therefore claim numerous benefits. Therefore, one cannot base the rationale of using it from the benefits of three or four well-known people where there are actually hundreds of non-celebs for whom it has not worked.

So how does one alleviate their ‘waist challenges’ or improve the look of their waistline? Exercises such as bicycle crunches, ankle taps, sit-ups (not crunches), mountain climbers and planks are good examples of useful activities. In addition, one should also do flexibility exercises and consider moderate yoga to assist in stretching the waist and hips.

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Eating plays a crucial role and if one wants to reduce their body fat percentage, one should refrain from such foods and drink containing sugars, salt and refined carbohydrates.

A crucial note that everyone should be aware of is that in the performance and human movement sciences, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach – literally – the corset might not be the perfect fit for you or work for you! The waist trainer may portray its presumed benefits but everyone will react to it differently. In reaching any of your health and fitness goals, it takes dedication, perseverance and mind over matter - not a quick fix.

Dr. Habib Noorbhai (Mr South Africa 2017) is a Researcher in Sports Science and a Health and Wellness consultant. He is also a speaker and presenter. He completed a BA in Sport Psychology (UJ), Honours in Biokinetics (UKZN), MPhil in Biokinetics (UCT) and a PhD in Exercise Science at UCT.