Waist training isn't an exercise but rather the use of a waist-training corset around your middle, called a waist trainer. It's designed to promote an hourglass shape, but the user can decide whether the benefits outweigh the risks. Corsets have been worn for hundreds of years, and waist trainers have very few differences from them. In this post, we'll break it all down.

What is a Waist Trainer?

Popularized by the Kardashians, a waist trainer is a modern corset designed to narrow your waistline with regular use. Rather than being laced up as a fashion statement, waist trainers are worn inconspicuously under clothing like shapewear. They create a temporary hourglass figure by cinching in your waist and redistributing weight above and below the waistline.

Waist trainers are made of latex or spandex with plastic or steel boning beneath the fabric. Typically fastened with velcro, snaps, or hooks, most waist trainers give you the option to cinch the waistline inwards over time as you lose weight.

How Do Waist Trainers Work?

While they might be pointless from a fitness perspective, waist trainers do affect your appearance.

Waist Trainers Shape Your Physique Like Shapewear 

Waist trainers work to create an hourglass figure when they're being worn. Because they're so effective in reshaping your torso, it's not healthy to wear waist trainers regularly for a long period. As long as you use them in moderation, waist trainers can be used like shapewear under an outfit. 

Waist Trainers Can Help You Improve Your Posture

Another way waist trainers can enhance the look of your figure is by straightening your posture. They force you to lengthen your torso slightly, but also they provide support around your waist to help you sit and stand tall.

Are Waist Trainers Effective?

Waist training is effective for changing your appearance, but it's not effective for weight loss. While some of the benefits, like improving your posture, can aid your weight loss efforts, waist trainers won't directly help you burn fat or shed pounds.

One reason waist trainers are popular may be the "snatched-waist" effect they create when worn under clothing. In a way that works similar to shapewear, waist trainers shape your waist to create an hourglass appearance. 

Worn over time, the shape starts to rub off and stay when you're not wearing the trainer. Long-term use of waist trainers can give you health problems, however, and the beauty benefits don't outweigh the risks. 

The Health Risks of Long-Term Waist Training

While it's not healthy to wear a waist trainer for a long time, you can wear it safely on occasion. Regular use of a waist trainer is linked to various health problems, including (but not limited to):

1. Muscle Loss

As the waist trainer squeezes you around the middle, your abdominal muscles adapt to fit the tight shape. Reduced circulation to the abdominal muscle tissue combined with restriction of the muscle results in muscle atrophy under the waist trainer.

2. Restricted Breathing

Your lungs can't fully expand while wearing a waist trainer, which makes it difficult to take deep breaths. In a 2018 study published in Respiratory Care, researchers analyzed the effects of waist training on lung function. While only ten women were involved in the study, the scientific measurements found that waist trainers reduced lung capacity by a significant margin. 

A reduced supply of air in the lungs means less oxygen to the muscles and organs that need it, which could make you feel shortness of breath while wearing a waist trainer. In the long term, low oxygen in the blood can potentially cause brain damage or heart problems.

3. Reduced Circulation

In addition to restricting your lungs from fully expanding, waist trainers also restrict blood flow in your waist area. With less blood able to move through this vital area, waist trainers can potentially reduce organ function during use. However, no studies have been done to verify the effects of waist training on the supply of blood to organs like the liver and kidneys.

4. Rib and Organ Damage

Pressing on your organs with enough force over time will cause them to shift, which can cause damage and lead to health problems. Even your ribs can become deformed from the continual use of a corset or waist trainer.

5. Digestive Issues

The squeeze of a waist trainer can cause acid reflux or indigestion, especially when not removed when you eat. With the problems explained thus far, such as circulation loss and shifting organs, it's not hard to see why waist trainers lead to digestive issues over time. While worn, they leave little room for your digestive organs to function.

If they're damaged from being pressed on for too long, organs like your intestines and liver won't function optimally to break down and extract nutrients from food. Since your gut is so crucial to your overall health, the potential consequences are innumerable. 

6. Pelvic Floor Problems

Ongoing use of a waist trainer to cinch your waistline can cause organs to shift downward, which puts excess pressure on your pelvic floor. Made up of muscle, the pelvic floor is responsible for stopping the flow of urine and acting as a "floor" that holds your rectum and vagina in place. Waist trainers can stretch the pelvic floor by pushing down on it, ultimately weakening it. Without a strong pelvic floor, you can experience urinary incontinence or even pelvic organ prolapse. 

Is Waist Training Worth the Risks?

Waist trainers benefit your posture and can be worn occasionally without causing health problems. When worn frequently over the long term, waist trainers have more drawbacks than benefits. Muscle atrophy, restricted breathing, and other downsides make waist trainers pointless from a fitness standpoint. But if it makes you feel good and you're using it safely, then go ahead (temporarily)!