Are Waist Trainers Dangerous? 

Shandra Martinez

| 3 min read

girl in a corset and sports leggings, hands on hips
Chasing an hourglass figure has been a preoccupation for centuries. Examples can be found looking back to the 17th century and that era’s whale-boned corsets or to the modern-day Barbie shape. Right now, devices called waist trainers are the hot trend to create a smaller middle. But how do they really work, and are waist trainers dangerous?
How waist trainers work. Waist trainers typically are worn around the middle, cinching in your torso from right under your chest to the tops of your hips. By making a tinier middle, the device serves to accentuate the hips and chest, creating an hourglass shape. Waist trainers are made from a variety of materials. Some wrap snugly with fasteners. Others use Velcro or laces to achieve a tight fit, making the abdomen smaller. Enthusiasts say waist trainers are a great fashion foundation piece, allowing them to get a more svelte look without losing weight – or even motivating them to drop some pounds so they can look naturally like they do while wearing the device. Some people even claim the devices can help you lose weight or “train” your torso into a slimmer shape.
But even with all their fans, waist trainers have lots of health care professionals either raising a skeptical eyebrow about the claims or raising a red flag about negative long-term side effects. Let’s break down some of the claims vs. the concerns.
Can waist trainers help you lose weight? While devotees claim waist trainers can help you shed pounds, health professionals say there’s a more reasonable explanation for any results wearers might see. While it’s possible to lose a few inches off your waist after wearing a trainer, those results will disappear within a day or two after you stop wearing it, according to WebMD. The tightly-wrapped trainers squeeze the torso into an unnatural shape and by doing so may help you get rid of some water weight. But again, those results are only temporary. And any weight loss would likely be due to sweating while wearing the trainer.
Posture and core strength. Makers of waist trainers claim that cinching yourself into the device will help improve your posture and even give you stronger core muscles. But health care professionals say the opposite is actually true. Waist trainers can make you more aware of your posture, and you definitely feel tighter and more compressed when the trainer’s fabric is holding in your abdomen. However, people are not activating their core muscles when they wear a trainer – a fact they tend to notice once they take off their foundation piece and have to use those core muscles again. Likewise, your back muscles are not engaged when you’re in a trainer, so you may notice an ache or soreness when you take it off.
Health problems. Some health care experts say waist trainers can cause health problems if they are worn long-term, according to an article in Psychology Today. Some physical problems could include:
  • Skin irritation
  • Chafing and rashes
  • Bone bruising
  • Acid reflux
  • Heartburn
  • Numbness in the legs
  • Restricted breathing
  • Lower back pain
  • Damage to internal organs
Still want to wear a waist trainer? Health experts recommend keeping it to short-term or occasional use.
Photo credit: Getty Images

A Healthier Michigan is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
No Personal Healthcare Advice or Other Advice
This Web site provides general educational information on health-related issues and provides access to health-related resources for the convenience of our users. This site and its health-related information and resources are not a substitute for professional medical advice or for the care that patients receive from their physicians or other health care providers.
This site and its health-related information resources are not meant to be the practice of medicine, the practice of nursing, or to carry out any professional health care advice or service in the state where you live. Nothing in this Web site is to be used for medical or nursing diagnosis or professional treatment.
Always seek the advice of your physician or other licensed health care provider. Always consult your health care provider before beginning any new treatment, or if you have any questions regarding a health condition. You should not disregard medical advice, or delay seeking medical advice, because of something you read in this site.