Slendertone Review 2017: Slimming Your Waist Or Wallet?

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Slendertone Review

The Slendertone ab toner belt plopped onto my radar when a reader of my popular Ab Wave review left a comment asking me if I’d ever heard of it. I hadn’t heard of this specific brand, but I was well aware of the different types of electrostim products. I did a bit of digging and found the company websitecompany website and a listing on Amazon with numerous consumer reviews.

A recent advertisement launched on Youtube asks “Do you want firmer, toned abs in just weeks? Then you need the button, the Slendertone button.”

Then the ad goes straight into a parade of hot-bodied goddesses and adonises which gives viewers the misleading impression they can put on the belt, push a button, and get the same svelte bodies as the models.

I’ll be honest. I think the advertising for this product is complete rubbish and it sends the wrong message to consumers.

slendertone ab toner belt

There are already so many hokey ab gadgets and gimmicks out there that my knee jerk reaction was to throw the baby out with the bathwater and give Slendertone a good smack across the face with a frozen Atlantic salmon.

The company claims it’s “clinically proven,” which is often a red flag for snake oil.

Surprisingly, the company actually cites a single peer-reviewed journal article as evidence of product efficacy. Sounds great, but in my opinion, I think they took some liberties with lifting their advertising claims out of context.

Therefore, the purpose of this article is to:

  1. Provide an independent review of Slendertone marketing claims; and
  2. Compare them to the original research

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What is the Slendertone Flex Pro?

Before we dismantle and evaluate the evidence, what exactly is the Slendertone Flex?

Made by Bio-Medical Research Ltd and headquartered in Galway, Ireland, the product line encompasses electrical muscle stimulation pads which are applied to the skin and ‘zap’ your muscles to contract.

Electrostimulation has therapeutic use in a clinical environment (hospital or clinic) for rehabilitation purposes, but this technology is now being applied to consumer health, fitness, and beauty goods (such as Slendertone).

Does it really work?

The short answer is yes, no, and it depends. You need to define “work” and what it means to you.

This question begets two more questions which are necessary to consider in answering the overall question:

  1. Is there any objective, scientific, peer-reviewed evidence to support marketing claims? and;
  2. What are your individual expectations from the product?

Question 1: Are claims supported by science?

A single study is listed on the company’s website.  Porcari and colleagues (2005) compared a group of men and women receiving 8 weeks of abdominal electrostimulation to a non-electrostim control group.  At follow up, they noted the following results:

  • 58% increase in strength
  • 100% abdominal endurance, but 28% increase in control group due to learning effect.  Therefore they subtracted the 28% from 100% for a 72% change.
  • 2.6 cm decrease in abdominal circumference
  • 3.6 cm decrease in waist circumference
  • 1.4 cm decrease in front to back diameter
  • No change in abdominal or suprailiac skinfold thickness

Research analysis

I compared the marketing claims against the original research article and I can verify that the numbers are “technically” truthful, BUT…

There are a number of limitations you must consider:

Limitation 1

Strictly using the machine, the increases in strength and endurance would be isolated to the specific targeted areas.

For any kind of functional/translational benefit to real world sports or activities, you would actually need to do full body compound movements which fire the abdominal musculature within the context of the entire kinematic chain (using all the body’s muscles together the way they were designed).

For example, if you are a baseball pitcher, you would need well-conditioned core musculature to link your lower and upper body during a pitch. This would best be trained by both sport-specific exercise (pitching a baseball) or simulated whole body movements which mimic pitching technique (cables).

Bottom line: the machine is highly unlikely to give you a body that looks anything like the hired models in their advertisements.

Limitation 2

There were improvements in circumference measures but in discussing the limitations of the study, the authors openly acknowledge:

An increase in the strength of the abdominal muscles could theoretically reduce the circumference of the mid-section. Since, one of the roles of the abdominal musculature is to support the abdominal contents, it follows that strengthening the abdominal muscles could in effect “pull in” the abdomen, much like a girdle. This effect would decrease both the circumference and front-to-back diameter of the waist.”

Plain English translation: the numbers reported are “truthful” but there may be other reasons to explain the results that have nothing to do with changes in body fat.

Limitation 3

The results also indicated no change in abdominal and suprailiac (just above your hipbone) skinfold thicknesses, body weight, or body mass index.

My interpretation is that, whilst there were changes in the tape measure readings, when put into context with these other factors, we really don’t have a physiologically confirmed reason WHY the circumference measures decreased.

Limitation 4

There was no direct measure of visceral (around the organs) or subcutaneous (superficial fat you can pinch) fat changes.

Circumference readings and skinfold calipers can be useful field measures and give suggestive evidence, but are not the gold standard of body composition – not even close. I would like to see a more thorough investigation using sensitive body composition assessment measures such as CT scans, MRIs, or DEXA to assess body composition.

Limitation 5

The study’s authors also state:

In support of the decrease in waist circumference was the fact that 13 out of 24 (54%) subjects in the stimulation group felt that their cloths fit better around the mid-section at the conclusion of the study. None of the control group subjects reported any change in how their clothes fit.

The issue with the above statement is that how one’s clothes fit cannot be reliably or objectively measured. So whilst this might be suggestive, it does not necessarily indicate a reduction in fat localised to the belly.

Limitation 6

Taken as a whole, the results from this study demonstrate that localised electrostimulation causes small increases in isolated strength and endurance in a clinical setting.

However, from a practical real-world standpoint, I would not recommend Slendertone as a solution for reducing body fat or body weight.

You can do all the crunches or electrostimulation you want, but your abs will NOT become visible until you lose the fat between your skin and muscles.  Less doughnuts and hamburgers and more fruits and veggies!

Limitation 7

An earlier electrostimulation study by Porcari and colleagues (2002) found no significant improvements in  measurements of body weight, body fat (via skinfolds), girth, isometric and isokinetic strength (biceps, triceps, quadriceps, hamstrings), and appearance (via photographs from the front, side, and back). However, I believe this study used a different electrostimulation unit and the subjects used the machine only three times per week.

Question 2: What are your expectations?

Whether the Slendertone belt “works” or not depends on your individual expectations.

Will it make your abdominal muscles stronger? Technically yes. It could plausibly increase localised muscular strength and endurance around your mid-section, but it’s not any kind of relevant functional training that will translate to making you a pro athlete. It will not translate to any sport-specific adaptations.  For that, you’ll need to get out and actually do sport and exercise (the real stuff!).

Will it help you strip away that loaf of fat around your belly? Highly unlikely.

As I previously mentioned, if you think this product is going to strip away the fat while you kick back on the couch downing chips and beer, then you’re in for a surprise. The evidence does not support this.

The fine print – always read the fine print

As with all exercise products and supplements which give the impression you can get in shape while you lounge around the house, you must ALWAYS read the fine print (the one with the pesky *asterisk*).

The company discloses on their website:

“ *Slendertone ab belts must be used as per the guidelines stated in the instruction manual.  For best results, we recommend that you use your Slendertone belt in conjunction with a normal, healthy diet and exercise.”

I interpret this to mean that the Slendertone belt itself probably won’t do much to reduce body fat unless you help it along with some veggies, tofu, hitting the gym, plus some regular walks around the neighbourhood.

How much does it cost?

Slendertone can range from $80 to $180 USD depending on the model and whether or not it’s new or used. Depending on your individual budget, that’s a fair bit of cash to spend on something backed by a single study loaded with limitations.

Where is it available?

The company website lists distributors in numerous countries including the United Kingdom, Ireland, United States, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Macau, Japan, Korea, Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan, even Russia.   On the top right hand side of the websites, you’ll see a drop-down menu for a number of countries.

Risks or side effects

In my experience with electrostim in general and in my investigation of this particular product, I did not come across any documented risks or dangers associated with using the Slendertone as instructed.

However, one unlucky woman did file a complaint with the Food and Drug Administration when her Slendertone unit exploded.

Closing thoughts

I’m renowned for pissing on the parade with my scathing reviews, but compared to other ab gadgets on the market, I found the Slendertone marketing claims to be comparatively tame (as I did with It Works body wraps).

Bio-Medical Research Ltd has not made any overtly false claims in their promotional materials, but with lots of sleek bodies and testimonials plastered all over the website, I think you need to be aware of how you personally react to and interpret these messages.

Be careful not to mislead yourself into thinking the product will burn fat off your abs with no effort. That’s highly unlikely to happen.

At a cost of a couple hundred bucks, I suggest that you determine what you want to get out of this product, look at the existing evidence and its limitations, and then make an informed decision about whether or not it’s right for you.

43 COMMENTS

  1. Hi,
    I am about to undergo a shoulder operation, which will result in me not being able to exercise. I’m really passionate about health and fitness, and its killing me that i won’t be able to, for quite some time.. Would a product like this help me? I’m not sure what to do.
    Please help me 🙁
    Lauren

    • Hi Lauren, Thank you for your comment. I’m not totally opposed to electrostim types of products per se, but I think if used in the appropriate context it may have some merit. For those that are able-bodied, I would not recommend that they substitute real movement with “let’s all sit on the couch and let a gadget stimulate our muscles.”

      I would advise you to speak with your surgeon and physical therapist and see what your options are. You may be able to incorporate this in with some other exercises during your rehabilitation. Don’t lose hope whatever you do. There are always options. And remember you can still get out and take walks to keep your aerobic fitness levels up.

      Kind regards
      Bill

  2. It’s a pity you don’t have a donate button! I’d definitely donate to this brilliant blog!

    I suppose for now i’ll settle for bookmarking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account. I look forward to your updates and will share this site with my Facebook group.

  3. Hi

    I was considering buying Slendertone Abs to help me tone up, I am a vegetarian and (during good weather) go running. I find it difficult to do squats and sit ups because I have back problems due to falling off of a horse so although I am not fat I am not as toned up as I would like to be.

    When I told a family member I was considering purchasing Slendertone Abs they told me not to because its messing with nerves and that it might be dangerous because having something like that done to your body when the electrical impulses are supposed to come from your brain could mess up how your nerves work and could possibly cause damage.

    Is this true?

    Danielle

    • Dear Danielle,
      Thank you for leaving a comment. I believe the electrostim technology is safe and is probably not going to result in any long-term or lingering ill effects.

      However, my main concern about the Slendertone product is that it’s just causing contractions in isolated muscle groups which really has no practical transference to real life. Our bodies are designed to use muscles in a coordinated fashion through various planes of motion. This sort of technology is often used in a clinical setting when someone has an injury (leg injury for example) where they physically cannot do exercise but need to try and preserve the muscle mass. I support this kind of use but do not support its use as a so-called “fitness product.” In this particular context, I am more inclined to see it as a gimmick and/or cash grab from consumers rather than anything that will contribute to genuine long-lasting health improvements.

      Your best bet would be to save your money from the Slendertone and pay a qualified exercise physiologist to help you find some suitable alternative exercises (real exercises) that can help get you moving like nature intended. This may not be the answer you were looking for, but I think most qualified health professionals worth their salt would agree that real human movement is better than simulated “movement” in isolation.

      Hope this helps.

  4. My age is 38 I am a Female, I had C-Section in 2002 my tummy is quite big now and I have been using Slendertone. My question is should I use it if I had C-Section or not? All of my body is slim except for my tummy. My tummy is bloating could you please advise me should I join the gym or should I use slender tone tummy belt THANKS

    • Hi Khushvinder,
      Thank you for your comment. As I mentioned in my article, the Slendertone product is simply an electrical muscle stimulation product and is not actually a substitute for exercise (which occurs dynamically and in 3 planes of movement). There is no evidence that using Slendertone will give you the massive list of benefits associated with real exercise and physical activity. Your body is designed to move, not sit idle with electrodes attached to it receiving electrical impulses.

      Yes, I would advise you to join the gym, as this will give you a variety of movements in your program that will allow you to develop overall physical improvements, not just localised changes associated with the Slendertone product.

  5. Hi,

    Thank you for your review. I am doing things to loose weight however due to many past surgeries my abdominal muscles do not support my stomach and it hangs unsupported if that makes sense. I have tried abdominal exercises but find my abdominal muscles to be so weak that I can’t even manage the exercises my physiotherapists have given me and my back just ends up hurting. Do you think in my case this could be suitable as I have tried other things and my main aim is to have my abdominal area supported again with muscle tone?

    I hope this makes sense.
    Thanks
    Kat

    • Dear Kat,
      Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment. I think in your particular case, there is probably no harm in giving the product a try. As I mentioned in my article, if people think this device is going to lead to ripped abs, then they’re dreaming. But if used in a rehab context, it might be quite useful. But I would add that once the localised strength improves, it would be worth your while to try incorporating more exercises to form a well-rounded routine. This will help your body function better as a whole rather than just that one little isolated contraction pattern predetermined by the machine (not very life-like). Hope this helps. Kind regards, Bill

    • Hi Margaux
      I recommend exercise over any of the thousands of ab belts that have come and gone over the years. If they worked for long term results in the first place, we wouldn’t have the current global obesity epidemic.

  6. I’m diagnose with TB Meningitis or Viral infection on my meninges. more than 5 yrs ago. My question Dr. Bill if i will use the slendertone, is there any bad effect on my health if i will this product? Can u please help me

    • Hi FJ, I legally cannot give you any medical advice on this topic, but would suggest that you speak with your doctor. Provided there is no medical reason that would preclude you from using the device and you are given clearance, then it may be appropriate.

      As I pointed out in my article, this technology does not deliver any kind of functional benefit since your muscles normally work together as a team. If you strengthen JUST your ab muscles but not the other muscles that they usually work with, then it may not be practical. I’d suggest hiring a trainer or exercise physiologist who can work with you to address your particular health concerns and prescribe an exercise program that will help you safely meet your goals.

      Kind regards,
      Bill

  7. Hi Mr. Sukala…

    Thank you for this wonderful review!

    I suffer from Sciatica, and although it’s not severe (I can walk, run and, for now, do light exercises), I have been feeling some sort of back pressure ever since I fell a month ago.

    Do you think that this product, along with my regular diet and exercise, can help me strengthen my back muscles, in order to keep on with how I used to live life?

    Thank you,

    Danny

    • Hi Danny,
      Thanks for your comment. The real purpose of this type of technology is to help people reduce muscle wasting if they’re injured or incapacitated and unable to do any movement. It’s not supposed to be a substitute for normal and natural movement in those who can move on their own. Unfortunately, it’s been packaged as a fitness product and promoted by some good marketing. If you can move on your own, I’d recommend regular exercise as tolerated until your sciatica resolves. You might also visit a physiotherapist to help you with some mobilisation and range of motion exercises. Overall, if you’re going to use this product, I’d recommend it as a complement and not substitute for exercise. Hope this helps. Cheers, Bill

      • Thank you, that’s exactly how I would like to use it, as a compliment, maybe before or after working out, so the muscles can get used it and improve my recovery time.

        Have a good day,

        Danny

  8. Hi Dr Bill,

    Thank you for this blog. Found this post while checking out the Slendertone belt for reviews
    I used to work out 5 times a week (3 sessions yoga and 2 pilates). Despite this, I still have a belly and it seems as if I don’t have abs.
    Since 09/15, I quit my job (was walking a lot), relocated and now I am excercising about 40 min everyday. I do pilates videos from Suzanne Bowen. Despite them being quite intensive, still I don’t seem to be able to stimulate my abs. It looks as if I am 3 months pregnant and I haven’t even had a child.
    note of importance I am 43.
    I eat healthy: smoothies (half green half fruits), vegs, 60g of meat max per day, ham, 2 yogurts, cheese and bread (well I am French so those are a must ☺.

    What can I do to improve my stomach line? I think I am healthy so what’s wrong?

    Open to hear any suggestion.

    Thanks

    Coco

    • Bonjour Coco, Merci beaucoup pour ton message. When people talk about their abdominal muscles being visible, this is a result of burning off the fat that is between the skin and muscle. You can do lots of abdominal crunches and have strong abdominal muscles, yet still not see your muscles. You can also have visible abs but the muscles themselves could actually be weak. So the bottom line is that you’ll need to reduce the fat between your skin and muscles over top of your abs.

      Whilst yoga and pilates are definitely demanding workouts, I would recommend adding in some higher intensity (faster paced) walking. This may help you expend more calories. On the diet side of things, it may be helpful for you to keep a food diary. I’d suggest using an app like My Fitness Pal which you can download on your phone. It allows you to carefully track your intake and will help you identify how many calories you should be eating per day.

      Ultimately, it will be a slow process if you are to do it healthy. All of the quick fixes and gadgets on the market are not going to help much. The Slendertone belt is highly unlikely to help you burn off the body fat since your overall energy expenditure whilst using the device will be very small (not to mention you’ll get little to no fitness conditioning from it).

      Hope this helps.
      Cheers,
      Bill

  9. Hello Bill & all,
    I hope you will find my input useful. I’ve been using a Slendertone belt on and off for years and found this site as I’m considering updating my current older model.
    You are spot on to say that the belt is no substitute for a healthy diet and actual getting up & moving about exercise.
    I walk and cycle and eat (mostly!) sensibly & am happy with my BMI of 19.5. Where I do find the belt very useful is keeping my middle from being less wibbly (scientific term I know). I go through periods of using it regularly 5 nights a week while lying in bed reading before sleep and it does help tighten my midriff. Not loads and it certainly doesn’t burn fat or turn you into one of the models, but it definitely does make a difference. I then get bored with the faff and quit for a couple of months, then start up again when the benefits have worn off.
    An additional unanticipated benefit is that I am prone to musculoskeletal pain in my lower back and I do find that this lessens while & for a time after regular use of the belt. I think it must be something to do with helping my core stability and is a pleasant bonus.
    As Dr Bill says, it’s certainly no magic bullet but is an effective addition to your exercise regime for keeping less wibbly round the middle.

  10. Hi! I just read your review of slendertone while I am sitting here using it. 🙂 Just wanted to give you my feedback. I am an attorney, a mom, very fit, very healthy. I have only had it a few days but I think it is working but I’ll let you know more in a few weeks. To be fair, the company made it very very clear on the phone that it does not burn any fat at all. I DEFINITELY think it increases core strength and it has added a little definition. An obese person should not think it will give them an 8-pack but they make that clear on the phone. Thanks for the work you do!

    • Hi Maria,
      Thank you for taking the time to share your experience. I think this is a valuable contribution and shows some level of ethics on the part of the company not overpromising results on the phone. My goal in writing this article was not to slam the product, but instead just to provide consumers with some balanced information to help them keep their expectations in check. Please do take the time to stop back and let us know how you’re going. It’s helpful for others who might benefit from your experience. Kind regards, Bill

  11. Hi
    I am developing an abdominal hernia and am considering using the slendertone to strengthen my abdominal muscles so I can begin to do ab crunches safely. Is this advisable? I used to be very fitness consciuos but given the nature of my work, this was not possible for a number of years. I do not want to get to the stage where I need surgery to deal with the hernia. please can you advise.

  12. Hello i am currently using this right now i used to use it before in conjunction with my diet and fitness training. I believe it does work in some ways but i already have low body fat percentage but feel that this just helps to get that additional core strenth and maybe some definition added. So i would like to say it would probably work for someone who is already decently fit but for an obese person it would not work at all.

  13. sir. I am in my late 50’s and my tummy increases for the last 2 years from 32 to 35. I am not having a regular exercises at all and I am a full time professional. Is it advisable to use this slendertone to lessen my fat tummy.?

  14. Very useful review, thank you Dr Sukala. I bought slender tone for the abs, mainly because I have picked up so many tendon injuries, that my activity level has reduced, simply to rest the tendon. This has resulted in weight gain. I felt that the slender tone was better than nothing, but I hope to supplement it with proper exercise soon.

  15. Hi Dr Sukala, I stumbled upon your web page whilst looking for reviews. I was wondering if electrostimulation would work for my condition. I suffered a brachial plexus injury after a motorcycle accident and was left with a complete flail arm. I recently had a nerve transfer to the bicep in order to hopefully give me some movement in my forearm. My accident was seven months ago now and my muscles have withered away in that time, would you be able to tell me if a product such as this help to build my muscles back up? Thanking you in advance for your time in reading my enquiry, regards, Bob.

    • Hi Bob,
      Thank you for your commend and apologies for the delay in responding, as I’ve been away on holiday. I think electrostim has clinical applications and, if your doc or physio thinks it’s appropriate for your specific condition, then it may help give you a little boost towards getting back to doing regular exercise. My review is mainly geared to pointing out that electrostim probably won’t give someone a svelte ripped and fit body, but might be useful in specific circumstances such as your own. Again, I would recommend discussing this with your doc and/or physio to make sure you’re getting the best info for your unique situation. Hope this helps. Kind regards, Bill

  16. I know this product doesn’t work losing body fat but do you think this would improve the sheer number of sit-ups I can do. Thanks Steve

    • Hi Steve,
      In my professional view,I view this product more as a rehab device than a piece of fitness equipment. If, for example, you were injured, it might help temporarily reduce the degree of muscle wasting until you’ve recovered enough to start exercising again. It’s theoretically possible it might help you squeeze out an extra sit-up or two, but remember that sit-ups require the recruitment of more muscles than just the rectus abdominus. So I’m not entirely convinced it would be a “complete” workout. Best way to increase your sit-ups is to actually do sit-ups. Hope this helps.

  17. I just skimmed your article. I saw that you basically said that Slendertone does not work. I didn’t see you mention electrode gel. Without electrode gel, Slendertone is ineffective. But if you apply electrode gel (sold separately) on the pads, then Slendertone is extremely effective, and I don’t work for them; I am just a user of the product. Cleaning the electrode gel from the pads is easy with Purell or a generic equivalent.

    • I did not say Slendertone doesn’t work. You’ll need to read the article again. I simply put the product into context for consumers to make an educated purchasing decision (against their implied expectations).

  18. Thanks for all these helpful reviews!

    I’ve just come across your website and it’s really refreshing to know there’s qualified, impartial/unbiased advice out there in the midst of all the extremely partial and biased media campaigns that I often so, so want to believe!! I bought a slendertone YEARS ago now, when I was actually quite fit, as I had trouble – back/neck pain – with crunches (which seemed to be the only form of abdominal exercise I remember being commended at the time!) yet I wanted to tone up in the stomach area. I still have it somewhere and was recently deliberating getting it back out as I’m upping my exercise again post injury (and in all honesty just wanted to take a short cut here!), but reading this has reminded/challenged me to take the normal hard-work route, seeing as I’m not incapacitated…and laziness is ridiculous in that case!

    Please keep reviewing – I’ll check here again!

    Gina

  19. Hello, I’ve seen many of these product’s promising ridiculous unreasonable results, unfortunately I’ve been upset with in my interpretation false claims. I usually just stop reading. So here’s my thoughts and question. I’m a Qaudriplegic, confined to a power wheelchair. As I get older I’m starting to lose even more strength in all areas, I’m wondering if using the belt can their be a benifit in making my bowels work better? Using the belt a few times a day, have you seen any studys for these type of benifits?
    Thany you for your time, M.O.

    • Dear Mit,
      Thanks so much for visiting and taking the time to comment. I’ve not come across any research that shows these types of devices having an impact on bowel function. Being quadriplegic, there may be some benefits to help minimise muscle loss or help maintain. It might be worth having a talk with your doctor and other allied health professionals familiar with your specific health/medical history to see how these types of devices might best serve you. Hope this helps. Kind regards, Bill

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