Every now and then I come a cross an advertisement that makes me say “What the #&$!?” I have seen the ad for the ROM machine in the back of Scientific American for some time but I never bothered to read it. Until yesterday. Then I went to their website. Yeow. My head is still spinning.
The ROM (Range Of Motion) machine promises a complete workout in only four minutes per day. Yep. Four, count ’em, four minutes per day. It’s a bizarre looking device with a central seat, pedals, handles, chrome tubing and what appears to be a large flywheel or friction wheel, all for the amazing price of only $14,615. This appears to be an entirely passive device (no motors like a treadmill).
As a person who runs competitively (for my age) and indulges in a variety of other muscle powered endeavors, I just had to find out more so I went to their web site. I mean, how could this thing provide a full workout in only four minutes and why does it cost nearly 15 k-bucks? And if it’s so dang successful, why hadn’t I heard of it before?
The web site explains much. First, it warns you that experts in the field of aerobic and strength training (or any field for that matter), are the people least qualified to judge “new excellent ideas”. It’s so important that they usher you off to a very special little web site called BewareOfExperts.com (the idea of links to these “special purpose” web sites is a common theme and one that I assume is designed to make this thing look more legitimate). I should’ve known. Experts only exist to maintain the status quo. The keepers of the faith. Only people without formal knowledge of topics are free of status quo bias. It’s so obvious. The web site also explains how the $15k price tag is actually cheaper than other forms of exercise such as running, walking, lifting free weights, and the like. At various places on the site the cost of ownership is quoted as being as little 20 cents per use. That’s odd because by my figuring, I can buy a set of iron free weights for a couple hundred dollars and I am darn sure that I’ll get more than 1000 uses out of them. The same is true of other endeavors: Nobody ever went broke feeding their walking habit. Of course, a major argument is that the ROM workout only takes four minutes, and therefore, that needs to be figured in to the total cost. In fact, when it comes to “figuring” the ROM folks are pretty inventive. Consider their comparison with running on a treadmill:
BURNING CALORIES ON A TREADMILL
1. A 180 pound person burns about 415 calories during a typical treadmill workout of 60 minutes. They burn 350 calories during the 60 minutes on the treadmill (walking at 3 to 4 miles per hour). During the treadmill workout you use 25% of the body’s muscles and you use them through only 15% of their range of motion. This means that only 15% of 25% or only 3.75% of the body’s muscle cells are stretched and stimulated during the exercise. These 3.75% of muscle cells that have been stimulated during a treadmill workout provide for an additional 25 calories of metabolism during the 2 hours immediately after the treadmill workout and another 40 calories for the remainder of a 24 hour period. Total calories from 60 minutes walking on a treadmill then are 350 plus 25 plus 40 calories for a total of 415 calories burned as a result of 60 minutes of walking on a treadmill.
BURNING CALORIES WITH THE ROM
2. The same 180 pound person will burn 465 calories as a result of 4 minutes on the ROM machine. How is it possible that more calories are burned as a result of 4 minutes on the ROM than from 60 minutes on a treadmill? During the 4 minutes on the ROM you use 55% of your muscles and you use them through an average of 80% of their range of motion (ROM stands for Range of Motion). The total percentage of muscle cells involved in the ROM exercise are 12 times as many as the 3.75% used on a treadmill because 80% of 55% of your muscles is 44% of all your muscle cells that are stimulated to an increased metabolism. During the 4 minute ROM workout the 180 pound person burns only 40 calories. But those 44% of the body’s muscle cells that have been stimulated to increased metabolism will burn another 150 calories in the 2 hours after the 4 minute ROM exercise and they will burn another 275 calories in the remaining time of a 24 hour period.
Now that’s some amazing shit. These guys have invented an exercise machine that doesn’t really burn that many calories during use, but stimulates your body to burn calories when you’re not exercising. Granted, anyone with some background in physiology knows that lean muscle contributes to basal metabolism more than an equivalent mass of fat, but these guys have taken it to the next level. They’ve taken it to Bizzaro Superman level. They need to focus their attention on food next. How about a dessert that, although it contains quite a few calories itself, actually stimulates your body to shed calories after consumption? I don’t know all of what the recipe would call for, but one possible ingredient would be syrup of epecac.
Moving on, one of their basic claims is that if you workout harder, you don’t have to workout as long to achieve the same benefits. Apparently, their lack of knowledge of the body’s energy systems makes them eminently qualified to assess the value of this “new excellent idea”. By this logic, a world class sprinter should have no problem becoming a marathon world-beater without a change in training (let alone genetics).
What would happen if I used this device four times per day at four minutes a pop? Would I burn so many calories by not running that extra hour or two per day that I’d only weigh 98 pounds? Well, I’m not sure that my body would be all that much lighter, but my wallet surely would.