Have you seen those advertisements for bracelets that claim to help improve your athletic performance? Maybe you have a friend who raves about how great they are, or you’ve seen one of your favorite athletes sporting one.
They’re often branded with claims about “holographic technology,” “magnets,” and “negative ions” helping to improve your speed, power, balance, strength, or flexibility.
But do they actually work?
Testing the Bracelets
If these bracelets do affect your body, then double-blind testing should be able to prove it.
In a double-blind study, participants are given either the real treatment or a placebo (fake treatment), but neither the participants nor the researchers know which is which. This helps to eliminate any possible bias in the results.
In the case of these bracelets, they’d use the “real” bracelets along with “fake” bracelets that look identical but don’t have the same “active” ingredients—the holograms, magnets, negative ions, or whatever else is supposed to be doing the work.
Then they’d have the participants do some physical tasks to measure their balance, speed, strength, or whatever the bracelet is claimed to improve. Researchers will measure each participant both without and with the bracelet (without knowing if it’s real or fake) to see if there’s any difference.
If the “real” bracelets really worked, there would be a noticeable improvement in the participants’ performance when they put on the legitimate bracelet. At the same time, there would be no difference when they put on the placebo bracelet.
The Results Are In…
The people who sell these types of bracelets will often give a demonstration as part of their sales pitch. Here’s one common demo you may have seen or experienced before:
- You’ll be told to stand on one leg with your arms outstretched.
- The salesman will push down on one of your outstretched arms while you try to maintain your balance.
- You’ll fall over quite easily.
- You are then given a “balance” bracelet to wear.
- You stand on one leg with your arms out again.
- They push down on your arm again—even harder this time.
- You won’t lose your balance this time.
It’s a very convincing demonstration, but unfortunately, it’s a trick.
The salesman will secretly and slightly change the direction they’re pushing down on your arm. The first time, they push down slightly away from your body (away from your center of gravity), causing you to lose your balance easily. The second time, they will push down toward your body (toward your center of gravity), which helps you maintain your balance.
Clinical researchers use a much more sophisticated and reliable method to test balance. They also compare “real” bracelets to “fake” ones.
Every study that has looked at the effects of these bracelets has found that they provide no measurable benefit.
Power Balance (the biggest brand of these bracelets) has lost several lawsuits and legal battles regarding false claims and advertising. They continue to sell their products, but they’ve been forced to change their messaging. They now say their bracelets are “based on Eastern philosophies containing ideas related to energy” without elaborating on what that actually means.
A Better Option: Smart Watch Bracelets
There are, however, some wearable devices that may be able to help you with your exercise program. Smart bracelets don’t claim to “boost” your energy, strength, or power.
Instead, they provide information and feedback that can help you become more aware of your activity level and how hard you’re working. They’ll measure things like heart rate, steps taken, calories burned, and more. This data can be useful in helping you to set goals, maintain motivation, and track your progress.
While this information may not be useful for everyone, multiple clinical studies support its use, especially for older adults and people with health conditions that need to be monitored.