Why waist trainers are dangerous for your health — and safer alternatives to help you lose weight

Originally Published on Jan 7, 2021 Health | By Lia Tabackman

  • Waist trainers may help you lose weight, but often this is just the temporary loss of water weight. 
  • Waist trainers also constrict breathing, cause pain, and degrade abdominal muscles over time. 
  • Talk with a healthcare professional to see if losing weight is right for you as not everyone can achieve an hourglass figure due to their unique bone structure and body shape. 
  • Visit Insider’s Health Reference library for more advice.

Waist trainers have gained popularity as a tool to help achieve an hourglass figure, but there’s no proof that they are able to permanently change the shape of your body or aid in long-term weight loss. Rather, they may do more harm than good. 

What is a waist trainer? 

Waist trainers are compression garments that many celebrities claim can aid in weight loss and slimming waists. 

Waist trainers are a modern iteration of corsets, a garment that dates back to the 1500s. They are commonly made of a thick material like latex, neoprene, or spandex, and use zippers, velcro, or hook-and-eye closures — like the ones found on the back of bras — to compress the waist and abdomen into an “hourglass” shape. 

But personal trainers say waist trainers are unlikely to help with long-term weight loss and can have dangerous side effects. Here’s why: 

1. Waist trainers restrict breathing 

Waist trainers compress the abdomen and diaphragm. The diaphragm is a muscle in the chest right below your lungs that helps you breathe. As the diaphragm contracts and relaxes, air is pushed into and expelled from the lungs. 

Natalie Toshkoff, DPT, a pelvic floor physical therapist based in New York, says that waist trainers restrict the diaphragm and can interrupt the natural breathing process.

Waist trainers interfere with the natural pattern of breathing, not allowing the diaphragm to fully descend as the lungs fill with air and compressing the outward motion of the ribcage,” Toshkoff says. “This can lead to using smaller accessory muscles in your shoulders and neck for breathing, leading to shallower breaths and tension in your upper body.”

A small 2018 study found women who took various pulmonary function tests, or tests that measure the amount of air inhaled and exhaled by the lungs, exhibited shortness of breath, sweating, and increased pain while wearing waist trainers compared to without.  | | | Next → |

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