Numerous manufacturers have come out with "performance jewelry" over the last few years, all designed to enhance athletic performance.
The most popular and well-known brand, Power Balance, claims that the body's natural frequencies are regularly interrupted by outside forces and the Mylar holograms in the Power Balance bracelet restore the body's energy balance. As a result, overall athletic performance is able to reach its maximum potential. In response to these hefty claims, the American Council on Exercise teamed up with the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse to put them to the test.
The Research and ResultsResearchers recruited 42 college-aged athletes, equal parts men and women, to participate in the study. Each participant completed two trials involving tests of trunk flexibility, balance, strength and vertical jump. These tests were chosen for their similarity to the tests used on the Power Balance website to promote their product. Each test was performed in the same order, without a warm-up and with the requirement that participants not participate in any other exercise on the day of the test.
In one trial the subjects wore a Power Balance bracelet, while in the other trial a "placebo" bracelet was worn. Bracelet assignment was randomized and double-blind to ensure that neither the participants nor the researchers knew who was wearing which bracelet, when.
Researchers found no significant difference between the placebo bracelet and the power balance bracelet on any of the tests. The only finding was that all participants did better on the second trial for each of the tests, regardless of which bracelet they were wearing. The improvements seen in the second trial were attributed to the participants either being more warmed up and/or habituated to the task.
The bottom line? Researchers call the Power Balance bracelet and other performance jewelry a "complete scam." Any improvements seen by athletes or jewelry-wearers are most likely attributable to the placebo effect and nothing else. In fact, the Australian manufacturer of Power Balance bands was recently required by the Australian government to release a statement confirming the fact that their claims are not based on any scientific evidence.
Hey, if you want to wear some placebo jewelry, more power to you, but if you have more important things to spend your $30.00 on, then I'd suggest you avoid investing in performance jewelry. Generally, if a thing sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
If you've already bought a bracelet, don't feel too bad—you're in good company. Power Balance alone sold approximately three million units last year. Just wear it for fun and chock it up as a learning experience.
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Laura Williams writes about exercise and fitness for Exercise.com through her regular column "Exercise Science". She is currently completing her master's in Exercise Science.