Get toned in double-quick time

Get toned in double-quick time

SINGAPORE - Imagine getting toned with just 20 minutes of exercise a week: That's the promise of a new fitness trend that has joined the growing number of non-mainstream physical-training alternatives in Singapore.

At the Bodytec studio in a shophouse unit in Tanjong Pagar, there was not a weight or treadmill in sight, and I barely broke a sweat as I clenched various muscles and did basic squats.

But, of course, it's not as simple as that. Electrical impulses were stimulating my muscles at the same time through electrodes embedded in a training jacket I was wearing.

Being my first introduction to Electro Muscular Stimulation (EMS), the electrical intensity was kept fairly low, trainer and gym manager Ezra Nicholas, 28, assured me.

But I could definitely feel an antsy twitch in my muscles, similar to pins and needles, while connected to the Bodytec training machine.

In the end, the workout was definitely more tiring than the simple exercises involved suggested.

While Bodytec, which says it is the first specialised EMS training studio in Singapore, was started here this year, the technology has been around for a while.

The machine has been around for seven years but it became more popular in the last three years. In Germany, there are about 300 studios providing training exclusively with Bodytec machines, the studio said.

Bodytec Studio director Christoph Schockemoehle said reception in Singapore has been good, and membership at their two studios has been growing steadily since opening in July, with an average of one new member a day.

"It functions very well as a gym replacement for most of our clients. It is also good for pain management, in particular for the back," said Mr Schockemoehle.

The studio has its fans, like Mr Eric Tan.

"For the workouts to be effective, you have to be disciplined and take the toughest route. After four to five times, I could already see the change in my arm muscles," said the real-estate consultant, who is a regular customer.

Mr Tan, 45, said that, over time, he has been able to endure higher and higher voltages, but this can be "painful".

"You have to persevere, keep going" to get results, he said.

Mr Birendra Kumar, 47, who has been trying out EMS for 41/2 months, said he feels that his circulation and metabolism have improved.

"It's quite fast, just 20-plus minutes but you start feeling the difference," said Mr Kumar.

The project director of a service-providing company in Jurong Island said he has little time for exercise and found this a "less punishing" way of getting fit, compared to going to the gym.

Dr Florence Wong, principal physiotherapist of Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, said that EMS is often used for "muscle re-education" in physiotherapy rehabilitation after an injury that has left muscles unused for some time.

However, it has not been scientifically proven to help in weight loss.

The effects are better when "it is used in conjunction with a physical-training programme", instead of as a substitute, Dr Wong said.

Certified fitness trainer Timothy Felix agreed. He told My Paper that while EMS helps to tone muscles, incorporating regular exercise into one's lifestyle has other positive effects.

"It's good for a quick workout, or if you like trying new things, but it should be just one part of your regular exercise routine," said Mr Felix.

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