Angioplasty and Stent | Best Exercise Guidelines For a Safe Recovery

Angioplasty and Stent | Best Exercise Guidelines For a Safe Recovery

I have received numerous requests for an article on exercise after angioplasty with and without stent placement after my other articles on exercise after bypass surgeryheart attackheart valve surgery, general open heart surgeryatrial fibrillation, and implantable cardioverter defibrillators.  Ask and ye shall receive!


What is angioplasty?

Before we get into what angioplasty is, you must first understand that coronary artery disease causes narrowing of the blood vessels that feed blood to your heart.

It can result in symptoms like pain and/or pressure in the chest, neck, back, jaw, arms (collectively called angina), or, if left untreated, a heart attack (myocardial infarction).

A cardiac catheterisation procedure is often performed to determine the extent of the blockages in your arteries and, if necessary, angioplasty may be performed with or without stent placement.

The term angioplasty comes from the Greek words angio meaning “vessel” and plasticos meaning “fit for moulding” but in very simple terms, it’s just another name for a heart plumbing job.

The full name for the procedure is percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA).  Translation: percutaneous means they pass an inflatable catheter through the skin (at your femoral artery in your groin area) traveling through the lumen (the space within your artery), up into your aorta, and then enter into your coronary blood vessels (the arteries that serve blood to the heart). Another common name for the procedure is percutaneous intervention or PCI.

Once the blockage is visualised, the doctor then passes the catheter into the blockage and inflates a small balloon to widen the blood vessel and reestablish blood flow.

What is a stent?

A stent is commonly inserted during angioplasty.  A stent is a little wire mesh which keeps the artery open after the balloon has been removed and minimises the chance of the artery blocking up prematurely (restenosis).

The main types of stents include a bare metal stent and a drug-eluting (medicine-coated) stent, the latter of which helps prevent scar tissue from blocking the artery.

Angioplasty and stent procedure in images

Angioplasty procedure 1

Blocked artery visualised during catheterisation

angioplasty/stent

Catheter, balloon, and stent inserted into blockage

angioplasty/stent

The balloon inflates the stent, pushing the plaque off to the side of the arterial wall.

angioplasty/stent

The catheter and balloon are removed, leaving the stent in place with reestablished blood flow.

angioplasty/stent

Here you can see the artery in the middle of the image with blood flow reestablished. Compare to the first image.

Below is another example which prominently shows the difference in blood flow after arterial stenting.

Angioplasty Stent

Common medications

A number of cardiac medications are commonly prescribed to help minimise the risk of your artery reoccluding (blocking up again), as well as reducing cardiovascular disease risk factors (to prevent another blockage).

The thing you have to remember is that when it comes to coronary artery disease, it’s not always a case of the doctor “fixing it” with surgery. There is always a risk of blockages in other arteries.

So while I’m not a fan of pumping people full of medications, there are times where they can be a valuable adjunct to reduce your risk of a heart attack whilst making lifestyle changes.

Once you get your risk factors under control (i.e., lose weight, quit smoking, start exercising, reduce blood sugar (if diabetic), then you can discuss with your doctor the possibility of reducing or discontinuing some or all of your medications.

I’ve had a number of readers asking me about so-called “detox” teas after their surgery. Don’t touch them until you’ve read my SkinnyMint Teatox and Skinny Teatox articles first. If you have cardiovascular disease then these could be particularly dangerous (not to mention interactions with medications).


Beta-blockers

Beta-blockers slow down your heart rate which also helps to reduce blood pressure and, consequently, workload on the heart. They also help relax your blood vessels which can help improve blood flow and reduce or prevent chest pain (angina).

Blood thinners 

Blood thinning medications like aspirin and Clopidogrel (Plavix) reduce the ability of your blood to clot, making it easier for blood to flow through narrowed arteries and reducing your risk of a heart attack.

Nitrates

Nitrates (such as nitroglycerin) are a common anti-angina medication which relax and widen your blood vessels to allow more blood flow to your heart muscle.   Nitroglycerin comes in small tablets that you place under your tongue when having chest pain.

Statins

Statins are prescribed to lower your blood cholesterol.  They work by blocking precursor substances needed to synthesise cholesterol.  Statins can help reduce the accumulation of plaque in your arterial walls which may reduce the chances of another blockage forming.

Calcium channel blockers

Calcium channel blockers affect the muscle cells in your arteries which help the blood vessels relax and widen.  This results in increased blood flow through your coronary arteries thus reducing or preventing angina.  Certain calcium channel blockers slow the heart rate which reduces workload on your heart.

ACE inhibitors

Angiotensin Converting Enzyme (ACE) inhibitors block an enzyme that produces angiotensin II, a substance which constricts your blood vessels.  By blocking the formation of this substance, it helps relax your blood vessels to reduce blood pressure and workload on your heart.


Lifestyle changes

Most importantly, lifestyle changes are crucial after surgery.  A combination of regular exercise, a prudent diet, quitting smoking (if you smoke), stress management, and behaviour modification to help you stick with it are all key pieces of the lifestyle puzzle.

Angioplasty is not a “cure” for your coronary artery disease.  Like with medications, the procedure simply buys you more time to make important lifestyle changes which can reduce your risk of arteries reoccluding (blocking up again) or other arteries plugging up for a first time.

Healthy eating 

For more information on diet for people with coronary artery disease, please read Gabby Maston’s guest post on the paleo diet vs. the Mediterranean diet.

Benefits of exercise

It’s common sense.  We all know exercise is good for us, but here’s a laundry list of benefits to put you in an exercising kind of mood:

  • Reduced risk of a heart attack (or second heart attack if you’ve already had one)
  • Improved heart function (i.e., lower heart rate and blood pressure means less workload on the heart)
  • Increased anginal (chest pain) threshold.  The more fit you are, the harder you have to work to elicit chest pain (if there are blockages present)
  • Improvements in oxygen delivery (via the blood) and consumption (in your muscles)
  • Enhanced fuel selection with exercise (i.e., your body can tap into fat easier with better conditioning)
  • Body composition improvements (i.e., reduction in fat, particularly dangerous fat around the organs)
  • Improved blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity (if you have diabetes)
  • Increased functional ability (i.e., easier to perform activities of daily living like lifting boxes, gardening, cleaning the house)
  • Increased quality of life

When can I exercise?

After your surgery, you’ll probably feel great (provided you’ve not had a heart attack or other complications) because your heart muscle is now getting lots of oxygen through the newly reopened arteries. But you must remember, even if you’re feeling better, know that there IS still healing happening on the inside.

I recall a client I had back in 2007. He called me up and said, “hey, I hear you’re the heart exercise guru.  Can you start training me today?”

Me:  “Well, not sure about the guru bit, but maybe I can help you. When did you have your angioplasty?”

Client: “Two days ago.”

Me:  “Right, ok, I’m going to grab you by the scruff of your neck, pull you back down to planet Earth, and save you from yourself.  I’m glad you’re enthusiastic about getting back into exercise, but you still have some recovery and healing time ahead of you before we can work together.”

It’s important to give yourself at least a couple weeks of low activity recovery time after leaving the hospital.  This means you can get out and do walks around the neighbourhood on level terrain, but leave the steep hills and pumping iron to Arnold (for now).

If you’re planning on doing some hard exercise (aerobic or strength training), I’d advise you to ask your cardiologist if a post-angioplasty treadmill stress test is appropriate.  If you can tolerate high workloads without any signs or symptoms (ie., chest pain, shortness of breath) or unexpected arrhythmias on the electrocardiogram, then this is pretty good assurance that you’ll be able to push the higher exercise intensities on your own.

Whether or not you do a pre-exercise stress test, be sure to get your cardiologist’s approval before you get into any structured exercise (gym workouts, tennis, golf, etc).  Make sure you understand the effects of your medications on the exercise response.

Aerobic exercise guidelines

When you’re first released from the hospital, it’s important that you’re up on your feet and moving around a bit but keeping the intensities low to allow for healing.  Even if you think you can do a lot more, err on the side of caution and take it easy.

The following is an illustration of a sample exercise plan which may serve as a rough guide (provided your surgical team agrees).  The aim is to wean yourself from shorter to longer exercise durations by minimizing how many exercise bouts you perform each day.

 WeekMinutesTimes per Day
13-56-8
25-104-5
310-153-4
415-203
525-302
630-452
7601

 

How often can I exercise? 

Start off with 3 to 4 days per week and work up from there.  If you were previously active before surgery, then you do have the advantage of muscle memory and a residual training effect, but as I stated above, you need to “test out” your body during exercise and the effects of medication on your exercise response.  Once you establish your fitness foundation, gradually work up to daily exercise sessions.

How hard can I exercise?  

The answer is always the same:  it depends.  Exercise intensity can be a tricky one because depending on your current level of conditioning, you may be able to tolerate higher workloads than someone who was previously inactive before their angioplasty procedure.  If you had a heart attack, then this can further complicate matters.

If you’re looking for a training target heart rate, then here are some basic calculations you can do.  I’ll give examples below basing the calculations on a 50 year old man with a resting heart rate of 60 beats per minute.


Method 1: Straight heart rate calculation

1) Determine your theoretical max heart rate by subtracting your age from 220.  So:

220 – 50 = 170 bpm

If you have an actual MEASURED max heart rate from a stress test, then use that number instead.

2) Then calculate training percentages based on 170 bpm.  So if you wanted to exercise at, say, 50 to 65% of your max heart rate, you’d calculate it as:

170 x .50 = 85 bpm
170 x .65 = 111 bpm.

Therefore your training heart rate range would be 85 – 111 bpm.

For 60 to 75%, it would be:

170 x .60 = 102 bpm
170 x .75 = 128 bpm

Therefore your training heart rate range would be 102 – 128 bpm.

Method 2: Karvonen method (aka heart rate reserve)

The Karvonen or heart rate reserve method is a little trickier but I’ll do my best to make it clear.

1)  As above, subtract your age from 220 to get your theoretical max heart rate.  So it’s 220 – 50 = 170.

2) Then subtract your resting heart rate from the result of step 1.  So 170 – 60 = 110.

3) Now calculate your training heart rate percentages from this.  If we use the 60 – 75% range it would be calculated as follows:

110 x .60 = 66
110 x .75 = 83

4) Now add your resting heart rate to these numbers.  So:

66 + 60 = 126 bpm
83 + 60 = 143 bpm

Therefore, your training heart rate range would be 126 to 143 bpm.

I would advise starting at the lower percentages and see how you fare.  It’s not a perfect science so you may need to adjust them if the training ranges are too easy.

If you have a hard time finding your pulse, get yourself a heart rate monitor or a Fitbit (which also tracks your non-exercise movement habits). Click on each image to check out features and thousands of Amazon user reviews.

Also remember that if you’re taking medications that alter your heart rate (i.e., beta-blockers), then none of these calculations are going to be worth much.  In that case, you’ll need to rely on what exercise physiologists call the “talk test.”  If you can have a conversation with the person next to you while doing your exercise, then the intensity is probably sufficient.

The Borg rating of perceived exertion (RPE) 6 to 20 point scale is also quite useful.  The logic behind a 6 to 20 scale is that most people at rest or doing light activity have a heart rate between 60 to 90 bpm.  If you’re working very hard, then you’re going to be around 170 to 200.  So Borg decided to just drop the zeros and create a scale which is consistent with most heart rates at a given workload.  This is particularly useful if you’re taking medications that slow your heart rate.  There is a bit of a learning curve to it, so if you’re enrolled in a cardiac rehab program after your surgery, have the staff exercise physiologist explain the scale to you.

Borg RPE scale after angioplasty

How many minutes should I do aerobic exercise?

I suggest easing into it.  Start off with 10-20 minute bouts of exercise and then work up from there.  Also pay attention to how you feel both immediately after and the following day.  If you feel absolutely drained by doing 20 minutes, then perhaps scale it back a bit and build up your conditioning to longer durations.

If you need to do several small intervals to accumulate your daily exercise minutes, then break them down into small intervals you can tolerate. You might do 10 minutes, have a break, do another 10 minutes, have a break and then do a final 10 minute walking bout. You’ve just accumulated 30 minutes of activity.  I often suggest working up to longer durations of 45+ minutes as tolerated.

Which types of aerobic exercise are best?

There are not set in stone guidelines for this, but aerobic exercises that incorporate the large musculature of your body (i.e., hips and legs) will give you the most exercise bang for your buck.  Also be sure to pick exercises you enjoys since that will increase the likelihood you’re going to do it.

Aerobic exercise precautions

  • Get your doctor’s clearance to exercise first.  Ease into it and carefully work your way up to higher intensities and longer durations.
  • Perform a gradual 5 minute warm up to allow your heart and blood vessels to adapt to the exercise.  Jumping straight into high intensity exercise could potentially aggravate the stent and cause it to collapse (particularly immediately post-angioplasty).
  • While in the early recovery phase (1-2 days immediately post-op), avoid overexerting yourself with strenuous/vigorous exercise (unless advised to do so by your cardiologist or surgeon).  Pushing too hard can cause a sharp spike in your heart rate and blood pressure which might cause the stent to collapse (it can and does happen).  Use the ol’ KISS acronym:  Keep It Slow and Steady.
  • Walk or cycle on level surfaces to establish your fitness foundation. You’ll be able to handle the hills in due time. If you find yourself huffing and puffing, that should be an indicator to ease up on the accelerator!
  • Limit your exposure to environmental stressors such as extreme cold, heat, or strong winds. Any of these can make your usual exercise pace seem much more difficult.

Adverse signs and symptoms

Pay attention to any signs or symptoms associated with exercise. Stop exercise if you experience chest pain, tightness, or discomfort, pain radiating down the arm or jaw, back pain between the shoulder blades, or shortness of breath,  If it does not resolve by itself or continues to get worse during rest, seek emergency medical attention.

Angioplasty resistance / weight training guidelines

One of the common questions I get from my readers is “can I lift weights after an angioplasty/stent?”  The short answer is probably yes, but how much weight you lift is going to depend on a number of factors that will need to be discussed with your cardiologist.

Here are some questions you’ll need to bring up with your medical management team (i.e., cardiologist, nurses, cardiac rehab team):

  1. Did you have a heart attack?
  2. Was there any damage to your heart muscle?
  3. Do you have any arrhythmias stemming from the heart attack?
  4. Do you have high blood pressure?
  5. Are you taking medications to lower your heart rate and blood pressure?
  6. During the cardiac catheterisation, did they note how widespread the coronary artery disease was (i.e., one artery, two arteries, triple vessel disease)?
  7. Did they stent all the offending arteries or were there still arteries with lower levels of plaque they chose not to stent?
  8. Were you a regular weight lifter before your procedure?
  9. How much weight were you lifting?

By no means is this an exhaustive list, but they are questions that need to be addressed.  If you had damage to your heart muscle, arrhythmias, or high blood pressure then high intensity weight lifting might be contraindicated (not advised).

If you had arteries with coronary artery disease which were not stented, then there is still a chance these plaques could rupture while lifting heavy weights.

If you were a weight lifter before the procedure then you might be able to tolerate weight training better than someone who is completely new to the gym.

How often can I lift weights after the procedure?

Consider starting off with 2 times per week and see how your body responds.  Then consider working up to 3 – 4 days per week as tolerated.

How much weight can I lift? Can I lift heavy weights?

The answer is:  it depends.  More than likely, you’ll be able to lift again, but how heavy you lift is going to depend on a number of factors.  Refer to the list above regarding weight training considerations.  You’ll really need to discuss this with your medical management team.

How long should my weight lifting sessions be?

There’s no resolute answer to this since it’s going to depend on how many exercises you do and how many sets and reps of each exercise.  This will be a bit of trial and error, but I would suggest paying attention to how you feel immediately after and the following day.  If you feel exhausted and run down, then you may need to adjust the training duration.

What types of resistance exercise is best?

Resistance training comes in all shapes and sizes.  You can lift barbells, dumbbells, body weight, cables, kettle bells, or get creative with set of TRX straps.

With the recent rise in high intensity training, I’m often asked questions like “can I do Cross-Fit after an angioplasty/stent procedure?”

Resistance exercise precautions

  • Like with aerobic exercise, get your cardiologist’s clearance for exercise.
  • Before you get into weight training, I would advise building a good aerobic base first.  If you can tolerate reasonably high workloads, then this will provide more assurance that you can tolerate weight training.
  • Perform a light to moderate 10 minute cardio warm up on the bike or treadmill to allow your blood vessels to dilate a bit.  Jumping straight into heavy weights with no warm up could cause a sharp spike in blood pressure which might affect your stent.
  • Following on from above, beware of weight lifting in very cold or hot climates.  If in a cold climate, be sure get in a warm up.  In a hot climate, be sure you’re wearing breathable clothing that allows for proper cooling.  Use a fan to help cool your body.  Environmental stressors (either hot or cold) can force your heart to work harder than it would at an ambient temperature.

Take home message

The bottom line is that you can exercise safely after an angioplasty and stent, but you do need to take some precautions.

Whether you’re into aerobic or resistance training, speak with your cardiologist about your particular medical and exercise history and ask lots of questions.

If you were a hardcore fitness nut before your procedure, ask about getting a treadmill stress test (if feasible) to see how durable your ticker is.

I would also recommend attending cardiac rehab, as this is another way to get some feedback on your particular condition.

Pay attention to how your body responds to exercise while on medications.

Once you adapt to the precautions, there’s no good reason why you can’t live a healthy and active lifestyle again.

Please share your thoughts, experiences, or questions in the comments section below.

Mesothelioma | Safe Exercise Guidelines

Mesothelioma | Safe Exercise Guidelines

Mesothelioma is a debilitating form of lung cancer caused by asbestos exposure. Around 70 to 80% of cases are associated with occupational exposure, particularly in industrial trades as well as employment in old buildings (schools and homes).

In my work as an exercise physiologist in both cardiac and pulmonary rehab settings, I’ve worked with a lot of patients with very complicated medical histories, including various types of cancers.


Mesothelioma, by nature of its effects on lung tissue, results in muscle loss and fatigue which can greatly reduce overall quality of life.

Benefits of exercise for mesothelioma patients

If you’re a mesothelioma survivor, you’d certainly agree that any therapy that does not include drugs would be desirable. Exercise offers a viable alternative that, if properly prescribed, can have a multitude of benefits, including:

  • Reduced fatigue and exhaustion, higher energy levels – exercise helps improve your body’s chemistry and physiology in ways that provide you with more stamina.
  • Improved physical function – exercise increases valuable muscle mass (or reduces the loss muscle) which can help improve your ability to perform activities of daily living and maintain your independence.
  • Boosts immune system – exercise is known to induce a number of changes in the body that make us more resistant to illness.
  • Improve appetite – exercise has a stimulatory effect on your appetite.
  • Lower stress levels – exercise helps you mitigate stress hormones and neurotransmitters that contribute to your feeling anxious and edgy.
  • Better self image – exercise makes you feel good about yourself through enhancements in your brain chemistry.
  • Improved balance – exercise not only builds muscle, but it helps you to maintain your balance, particularly from performing activities that challenge your body.

Pre-exercise checklist 

If you’re attending a mesothelioma cancer centre for treatment, you should speak with your health management team for exercise advice that is specific to your situation.

From an exercise physiologist’s perspective, here are some pre-exercise considerations to bear in mind.

  • Get medical clearance – it is always important to get clearance from your doctor before starting an exercise regimen. Everyone is different, so ask your doctor questions to ensure that exercise will be safe and effective for your unique situation.
  • Be medically stable – we know exercise is good for you, but if you’re not medically stable or have any specific contraindications, then exercise could potentially worsen your health.
  • Be stable on your medications – safety first. If you’ve had a lot of recent changes in your medications, talk to your doctor about how they might impact your ability to exercise. Some medications can interact with exercise in ways which might cause you to feel dizzy or pass out.
  • Have no open wounds – if you have any open wounds, then it’s important to have wound care procedures in place if you’re going to be in a gym. You want to minimise your risk of infections which could set you back.

Bottom line: before you start exercising, talk to your doctor about any mesothelioma-specific considerations which might impact your ability to exercise. Complications could affect your exercise prescription so you’ll want to be prepared so you can exercise as safely as possible.

Safe exercise for mesothelioma patients

We can break physical movement down into two types: 1) activities of daily living; and 2) structured exercise.

Activities of daily living

Activities of daily living (ADLs) refer to the daily incidental movement you must perform to simply get through life. In the face of cancer, it can sometimes be a real challenge to get though even the most basic ADLs.

Reassure yourself that it’s normal to feel tired and lethargic given the circumstances but know that, little by little, you will be able to regain your movement and independence.

ADLs might include things like household chores such as washing the dishes, doing the laundry, or walking to the corner shop for veggies.

Sometimes you’ll be required to lift objects, but be careful to ease into it. You might try lifting 2 to 4.5 kg (5 to 10 lbs) to start and, if this feels ok and you have approval from your doctor, you may try increasing the load a bit. In general, be aware of any activities that require lots of pushing or pulling.

Overhead lifting such as putting dishes in the cupboard or even brushing your teeth might make you feel a bit tired, as it forces your body to push blood upwards against gravity.

Climbing stairs and steps can leave you feeling exhausted, so try a graduated approach where you climb one flight of stairs, stopping when you feel tired. As your tolerance improves, try two flights of stairs. As you return to health, you’ll be able to climb all the stairs without stopping.


Structured exercise

Structured exercise, on the other hand, includes purposeful movement with the intention of improving your health and fitness.

Which exercise is best? The one you enjoy most! For many people, walking is both functional and enjoyable and is well-tolerated. Riding a bike, swimming, or lifting weights (with approval). But be sure to avoid sham infomercial exercise gadgets.

Aerobic exercise

Aerobic exercises engage the large muscles of the body, are rhythmic in nature, and can be maintained continuously for a long period of time.

Because, mesothelioma affects the lungs, which can make aerobic exercise particularly difficult, it is important to work to your tolerance and gradually increase durations and intensities as you’re able.

Graduated mesothelioma aerobic exercise program

A graduated exercise plan can slowly help you improve your exercise tolerance. The logic is that, in the early weeks of your recovery, you will perform a shorter intervals for more times throughout the day. As you become stronger, you will progress to longer intervals for fewer times per day until you’re able to do one long bout of continuous aerobic exercise.

WeekMinutesTimes per Day
13-56-8
25-104-5
310-153-4
415-203
525-302
630-452
760+1

The above example is not a rigid, set-in-stone program, but is just a template that you will have to modify to your level of health and fitness. Speak with your doctor and/or medical management team to determine the optimum starting point.

Strength training

Strength training refers to weight lifting or resistance training. It can be safely performed in properly risk-stratified mesothelioma patients who are stable and medically-managed.

  • Frequency – start off with lifting 2 to 3 sessions per week. This will allow you time in between workout days for recovery.
  • Intensity – start off with light weights until you receive the green light from your doctor or rehabilitation team. Progress at a slow and steady pace to minimise delayed onset muscle soreness.
  • Duration – start off with short duration sessions of approximately 15 to 20 minutes. See how your body tolerates this and then progress from there. Be careful not to overdo it since “marathon sessions” can leave you sore and exhausted which might discourage you.
  • Types of strength training – contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to “pump iron” by lifting barbells and dumbbells. Calisthenics (body weight), resistance bands, and exercise machines all offer viable resistance training options as well.

You have a couple options for easing into weight training. You can do a full-body routine or you can break up the routine to work different body parts on different days.


If feasible, I would advise working with a clinical exercise physiologist or physical therapist with knowledge and experience in helping cancer patients. They can help you create a customised workout plan unique to your physical abilities, likes and dislikes, and the effects your medications might have on your exercise prescription.

Flexibility, movement, and breathing exercises

Exercises that combine strength and flexibility include yoga, Pilates, and Tai Chi. If you’ve been debilitated from treatment, then these forms of movement can help you maintain your range of motion and also promote a sense of calm and relaxation. Inform your instructors of your mesothelioma so they can help adjust and tailor exercises to you.

Is exercise safe? Risks and precautions

While exercise is known to have countless health-promoting effects, excessive exercise is a challenge to the body and can actually work against you by driving down your immune system and increase your shortness of breath.

As a general rule, it is advisable to avoid or minimise performing extremely high-intensity, high-impact, long-duration exercises (unless you are specifically cleared to do so by your doctor).

Medications can have side effects or interactions which might make exercise more difficult for you. Speak to your doctor about their effects on the exercise response.

See your doctor if you experience any signs or symptoms while performing low to moderate-level exercise or you start to notice a deterioration in your fitness levels.

Take home message

Properly prescribed exercise, along with healthy eating and stress management, is an important cornerstone in recovering and living with mesothelioma. Work closely with your medical management team to ensure that exercise is as safe as possible and will improve your health, well-being, and quality of life.

Other resource pages

  1. American College of Sports Medicine Roundtable on Exercise Guidelines for Cancer Survivors (link)
  2. Exercising Promotes Healing for Cancer Patients (link)
  3. Top 5 Benefits of Exercise for Mesothelioma Patients (link)
  4. Custom Mesothelioma Exercise Plan May Improve Quality of Life (link)
  5. Fitting Exercise into Your Treatment Schedule (link)
Wonder Core Smart – Review of Marketing Claims

Wonder Core Smart – Review of Marketing Claims

I first heard of the Wonder Core Smart a couple days ago from a guy commenting on my Ab Wave article.

Any product with the word Wonder in its name always raises my eyebrows, especially when it comes to health products.

Being the inquisitive type, I decided to investigate to see what made it so wonderful.


So what is the Wonder Core Smart anyway and what does it do?

The Wonder Core Smart is an infomercial exercise product that, according to the company, is a “revolutionary new fitness breakthrough designed to target your entire core, focusing your workout like a laser on your upper, middle, lower abs and obliques.”

They claim it’s the “ultimate total core workout” and will deliver the “6 pack abs you’ve always wanted.”

wonder core smart review of advertising

Website screen capture – Review of marketing claims

The product purportedly accomplishes all this by its “dual resistance” feature designed to “work your muscles on the way up and the way down.” There are eight listed exercises users can perform, including:

  • Sit-ups/Crunches
  • Push-ups
  • Bridge
  • Scissor Kicks
  • Forearm/Biceps
  • Triceps
  • Ab Tucks
  • Bicycling

Aside from the machine itself, you get a workout DVD and an exercise guide. According to their promotional video, you also get a nutrition guide. And if you’re willing to spend a bit more, you’ll get a non-slip mat and an “arm and thigh toner” which looks to be rubber tubing.

Sounds great, but can it deliver?

Maybe you’re asking yourself, “Should I buy this thing?  Does it really work? Is there any scientific research to support their marketing claims? Well, that’s where I come in.

Make no mistake about it, I’m very thorough when I evaluate infomercial products. I’m going to answer all these questions and much more.

Therefore, the purpose of this article is to categorically and systematically review and dismantle Wonder Core Smart’s marketing claims and give you an honest and fair exercise physiologist’s assessment.


Slick marketing

In order to be thorough in my assessment, I transcribed the video from the company’s website to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I then combed over the transcript and website and came across some marketing sleights of hand similar to other infomercial gadgets I’ve reviewed (Ab Wave, SpinGym, Ab Circle Pro, Slendertone)

Before I go on, let’s be honest: advertising is meant to do one thing: sell products. And I’m ok with that. I get it. CAPITALISM, yeah baby!

But I’m also a firm believer in full and honest disclosure of the facts so that people can make an educated and informed decision.

Ok, let’s get down to business.

 

Claim 1

“The ultimate total core workout” 

This is a claim based on nothing more than the company’s opinion, not on scientific fact. I’ve been to enough marketing seminars to know buzzwords like “ultimate” are just meant to activate the primal part of your brain and get you emotional over the product.

How do they quantify a “core workout” in order to make this comparison?

Bottom line: this is just marketing hype. You can interpret it any way you like.

 

Claim 2

“Wonder Core Smart is the revolutionary new fitness breakthrough”

“Revolutionary?” “Fitness breakthrough?” Says who?

Bottom line: As with the above “ultimate” claim, these terms are just emotive marketing jargon based on the opinions of the company.

 

Claim 3

“designed to target your entire core, focusing your workout like a laser on your upper, middle, lower abs, and obliques.”

The claim that it “targets your entire core” is technically true in that the muscles listed are affected by the exercises, but there are other important considerations to bear in mind.

The predominant muscles worked would be the rectus abdominus (the bricks you see in a six-pack) and, to a lesser extent, the obliques as assisting muscles.

However, all of the listed exercises work your body ONLY in the sagittal plane of motion (i.e., front to back movements) and not in the frontal (i.e., movements out to the side) or transverse planes (i.e., rotational movements).

The fact that the device offers no sideways or rotational movements means that the internal oblique muscles would be largely under-utilised.

As an exercise physiologist, my concern with using a machine that puts you through the same plane of motion with no variety is that it can plausibly create muscle strength imbalances (which may lead to things like back or neck pain).

For example, think of the guy at the gym who ONLY does bench press and ab crunches. You’ll notice his shoulders are rounded forward due to overdevelopment of the same muscles from the same exercises through the same plane of motion (sagittal plane).

A well-rounded fitness routine should prepare you for daily living that occurs in three planes of movement (and everything in between).

Bottom line: In order for Wonder Core to be the “ultimate total core workout,” the company still has work to do with coming up with other exercises that work the core in a more thorough and complete way.


Claim 4

“Dual resistance design that works out your abs in both directions, giving you twice the workout with each and every rep.”

By its very design, this claim of “dual resistance” is technically false.

First, the term “dual resistance” gives the impression that the machine provides resistance to working muscles in both directions. However, because it is spring loaded, it only provides resistance in one direction, and that is upwards.

Second, because it is actually a “single resistance” machine, it is false that the Wonder Core works your abs in both directions. It doesn’t.

For example, if you’re doing sit-ups on the machine, the pads are against your back. This means that the machine is actually reducing the workload on your abdominal muscles because, by design, the machine is pushing you up. And on the downward movement, the machine is resisting you.

You can clearly see below in the still frame from Wonder Core’s own video that the model is crunching upwards and the arrow indicates the machine is assisting her.

wonder core smart ab crunch

In order for the marketing claims to be true, the pads would have to be against your chest, not your back. And the machine would need to place resistance against your chest on both the up AND down phases of the sit-up.

Sure, the company could try to argue that it’s “dual resistance” in that every resistance exercise has a concentric (lifting) and eccentric (lowering) phase. But the weakness of the machine is that it ASSISTS you in the movement!

Bottom line: this marketing claim is inconsistent with basic principles of biomechanics, let alone their own advertising.

 

Claim 5

“Double the workout in half the time!”

This claim is ambiguous and confusing. First, how do they quantify “double the workout in half the time?” Compared to what? Double WHAT workout?

Is it based on the “dual resistance” premise? If so, then I’ve shown above that the machine is single resistance and, in fact, actually supports your back and assists you, thereby reducing the work your abdominal muscles perform.

Exercise analysis

The image below displays the exercises that can be performed on the machine.

wonder core exercisesOf eight exercises, almost all of the movements are assisted by the machine’s spring-loaded design. The amount of assistance a user receives is determined by settings. One exercise doesn’t even work the intended muscle group.

1) Sit-ups/Crunches
As I showed you in an earlier image, the effectiveness of this exercise is mitigated by the machine’s settings. If you put it up to a higher setting, it will offset your body’s resistance. In a sense, it is spotting you.

2) Push-ups
Same as with sit-ups/crunches, the machine is assisting by pushing your body upwards against gravity and reducing the workload.

3) Bridge
Same as with sit-ups/crunches and pushups, when pushing up into the bridge position, the machine is pushing in the same direction, thus assisting you through the workout.

4) Scissor Kicks
This exercise actually works the glutes and hamstrings when pushing down. On the up phase, it would actually assist your abdominal muscles.

5) Forearm/Biceps
This exercise ACTUALLY works the triceps, not the biceps. If you’re bending your elbows on the up phase, then the machine is pushing in the same direction. 

6) Triceps
This exercise does work the triceps, with the intensity is determined by the machine’s settings.

7) Ab Tucks
This is an assisted movement and the effectiveness of the ab workout would be offset by the machine setting.

8) Bicycling
This is called a bicycling exercise despite there being no circular movement like peddling. It would probably work your glutes, hamstrings, and calves a little bit. The machine provides assistance on the upward phase.

Are there any scientific studies?

In a word: no. I did a search of the medical journal databases and did not find a single published study. Not a good look in the credibility department.

The company did, however, try to bluff their way through this one, stating in their infomercial:

In fact, Wonder Core Smart was proven in university lab testing to be 100% more effective in core exercises than doing them on the floor alone.”

wonder core smart scientific research

They do not go into details or provide any further information about the testing, how many subjects were evaluated, what outcomes they were measuring, or any reference to legitimate statistics. They only state that it’s 100% more effective than doing them on the ground – which really doesn’t tell us much.

Based on the single resistance design of the machine, it is more scientifically plausible that the machine would be LESS effective than doing crunches on the ground because it assists you through the exercise!

Also remember that when these types of companies claim a product is “tested” or “clinically proven,” there is no legal definition or standardisation for such terms. It is purely up to the individual to decide what it means (read my article on “clinically proven“).


Red flags and warnings

Here are some infomercial red flags I found that you need to be aware of

1) Wonder Core Smart machine vs. Wonder Core System

This is a popular tactic used by infomercial spruikers. If you read the transcript of the two minute infomercial, they state the terms “Wonder Core Smart” (referring to the machine) a grand total of 11 times, or once every 10.9 seconds. On the other hand, they refer to the “Wonder Core Smart System” a grand total of one (1) time, or once every 120 seconds.

The problem with this is that, if not paying close attention, you might be led to believe that the machine alone is responsible for any purported results you might achieve. But the sleight of hand is that you must use the machine as part of a SYSTEM, which includes exercise AND healthy eating.

Point is, why not just give up the two-litre bottles of soda, chips, and doughnuts in favour of more fruits and veggies and start walking every day. That would also have a dramatic effect on your waistline, and it’s supported by mountains of epidemiological research.

2) The use of meaningless jargon

Infomercials are notorious for using ambiguous or confusing terminology that is left to the viewer to decide how they want to interpret it. As I’ve cited above, terms like “ultimate total core workout” and “revolutionary new fitness breakthrough” are typical phrases for these types of products but they are more opinion and conjecture than anything with substance.

3) Embellished phrasing and overblown use of adjectives

The video script starts right into it, asking you if you “want a tight, toned, body and sizzling sexy rock hard abs.” Sure, who doesn’t. Sounds good to me.

They go on and tell you to “stop struggling trying to get results the hard way and start working out the smart way.” Enter the Wonder Core Smart to the rescue.

They claim you’ll get “incredible results” with “amazing exercises, plus cardio for the ‘ultimate’ total body calorie-blasting workout.

Sorry to smack you in the face with a wet fish, but this type of phrasing panders to base human instincts (sloth [lazy], envy, pride). If you’re the lazy and unmotivated type, then a machine you can store under your couch or in the closet probably isn’t going to see a lot of daylight.

4) Fitness models

Do you think those fitness models they hired for the videos and website actually used the product to get those sleek svelte bodies? Do I need to continue?

5) Testimonials

You cannot put an infomercial on the air without enthusiastic, emotive, or weepy-eyed testimonials. They tap into our innate sense of envy and perhaps FOMO (fear of missing out).

Translation: if you don’t buy this product, then you’ll stay fat and no one will ever love you.

The inherent problem with testimonials in general is that they do not separate cause and effect from coincidence. Did the person get the results from using the machine or the “system” which includes the diet?

Looking at one of the testimonials from the infomercial, a woman makes reference to the machine only:

“It’s such a compact machine and yet I was able to work out my arms, my legs, my core. And the next day I was sore. I didn’t realise I was getting such a workout.”

If you want to learn the inside scoop on infomercials, check out this Dateline NBC undercover investigation which blows the lid wide open on the industry’s secrets “they” don’t want you to know about.

6) The fine print

It’s on virtually every product: “Results may vary.”  Why is this a red flag you ask?  Well, because the company never explicitly defined “results” and “results” can mean different things to different people, they have to put this disclaimer.

If they were specific about how many kilos (or pounds) you might lose, then that is a measurable, quantifiable expectation put in consumers’ minds. And if people don’t clear that bar, then they have a case against the “money back guarantee” they all offer.

Does it really work?

Yes. No. Maybe, and everything in between.

The marketing claims are waffly, ambiguous, and ill-defined, so the answer to this question really depends on your personal expectations matched up against what the device can actually deliver.

If you think the machine is going to give you a body like the models in the infomercial, then you’re probably going to be sadly disappointed. Those types of bodies require either good genetics or an obsessive number of hours in the gym pumping heavy iron, not to mention a healthy diet.

If you’ve been doing absolutely ZERO exercise for the past 30 years then you’ll probably have sore muscles the day after. But this is less to do with the Wonder Core itself and more to do with you simply lifting your body weight against gravity (with the machine coincidently underneath your body).

In fact, if you’ve been physically inactive for years, just going out and walking several kilometres (or miles) would probably leave you sore too.  No rocket science here, just basic physiology 101.

Any benefits to using the machine?

In my opinion, the Wonder Core is more of an assisting device than an exercise machine. If you’re new to exercise, then it can serve as something of a “spotter” to help offset your body weight. As you become more fit, then you can lower the resistance so you accept more gravitational load on your muscles.

I think it could be a helpful machine for people who are: 1) extremely unfit and deconditioned; 2) elderly people who might need some extra support for their arthritis; or 3) people with other medical conditions that preclude them from lifting their entire body weight.

Is it safe?

I’d say yes. I didn’t observe anything about the machine that would pose a significant threat to someone’s health and well-being. If anything, the machine might help reduce your likelihood of getting injured by offsetting your body weight.

Where is it sold?

I found a number of outlets around the world where consumers can buy the Wonder Core. The most popular places in the US appear to be the Home Shopping Network, Amazon, and Walmart.

In my research, I found the device for sale in Australia, India, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and Canada.

User Reviews

As of this writing, there are 387 customer reviews on Amazon.com. It may be worth having a look to check out others consumers’ experience both with the product and their purchase.

How much does it cost?

If you buy from the official website, it will cost you $115, 140, or $160 USD including shipping and handling and depending on which option you choose. These are broken up into five payments of $19.95, $24.95, or $28.95.

Obviously prices will vary from country to country and if you’re ordering through an online marketplace which might have discount incentives available.

Wonder Core Smart Buy Price

A word of caution on price

There are three options available: Basic, Combo, and Extreme. What’s the difference? Not much.

If you order the Combo or Extreme options, you get what is called an “arm and thigh toner” and an exercise mat (Extreme option). Looking at the image above, the toner is pretty much just some rubber resistance band tubing. You can go to your local sporting good store and buy this and an exercise mat for a fraction of the price.

Other costs

If you want to insure your delivery, you can enrol in the InsureShip Insurance Program for an extra $3.99 USD.

You’ll also be liable for sales tax in the US states of NJ, NV, NY & CA. A shipping surcharge of $20.00 applies to orders from Puerto Rico.

Is there a money-back guarantee?

On a positive note, the company offers a 30-day money-back guarantee (less processing and handling). A good sign was that I did not find a lot of online complaints, so hopefully this means it’s an easy process if you do want your money back.

Contact the company

Customer service phone: 1-800-353-4272 (8:00AM – 8:00PM EST [USA])
Check order status: www.customerstatus.com.
Physical address:
ATTN: Returns
400 RETURNS RD
Wallingford CT, 06494

Take home message: Should you buy it?

Let’s be clear: Wonder Core’s advertising is not 100% transparent. In fact, a lot of it is confusing and misleading, if not downright false.

The company seems confused about the very exercises they advertise and, in my view, this demonstrates an ignorance to basic principles of exercise science and biomechanics.

If you’re ok with all that, then it’s your choice to move forward with your purchase.

Is the Wonder Core a scam or a rip-off? You’ll have to decide that for yourself. I think the answer to that depends on your own moral and ethical compass and what’s acceptable to you regarding truth and full disclosure in advertising.

I’m not going to tell you what you should or shouldn’t do with your money. To be honest, I don’t care if you buy a Wonder Core or not. But what I DO care about is that you have made an informed decision based on ALL the facts. Good luck!