Getting crossed over by a kid in pick-up basketball or lapped by a dude in dad shoes could make anyone want to get faster, stronger, and better â€” quickly.
Performance-enhancing accessories promise a wearable, get-slick-quick solution: Instantly improved balance, strength, and flexibility.
But has anyone who turns up to work in a lab coat given them the go-ahead? Do necklaces and bracelets really lend an edge, or is it all just fashion fiction? Letâ€™s take a look.
Power Balance: whatâ€™s it all about?
Power Balance currently asserts that their braceletsâ€™ holograms â€œare based on Eastern philosophiesâ€ that are â€œrelated to energyâ€ (aka chi or chakras). They do not explain how the bracelet supposedly impacts your â€œenergiesâ€ or improves your performance.
However, Power Balance claims to have testimonials from around the globe. Their website lists several professional athletes who wear this wristband. And if tennis player Mardy Fish stands by the bracelet, then who are we to say whether itâ€™s the backbone of his success?
Meanwhile, the Phiten brand, backed by pro golfer Hideki Matsuyama, talks up their Aqua-Titanium technology.
Titanium, a hypoallergenic and highly biocompatible metal, has qualities that balance your bodyâ€™s naturally occurring electrical currents. Some research backs this statement.Wood MM,et al. (2015). Hypersensitivity reactions to titanium: diagnosis and management. 10.1097/DER.0000000000000091
Some believe that products in this realm may or may not reduce pain and fatigue, improve strength, and aid â€œbioelectrical flowâ€ (a fancy term for the movement of oxygen around the body).
However, this may prove too baller to be true. Earlier research from 2011 takes a dimmer view of Power Balance bracelets, maintaining that they donâ€™t really provide the benefits that the marketing team would have you believe they do.Porcari J, et al. (2011). Can the Power BalanceÂ® bracelet improve balance, flexibility, strength, and power? https: //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/ PMC3737916/
Do products like Power Balance bracelets work?
All the hype begs the question: Do these trinkets actually make a difference? Are you immediately going to transform from James Corden to Michael Jordan with the assistance of a 3D hologram?
Jewelry that claims to manipulate frequencies or electrical impulses within the body has been around since the 70s. Studies have debunked many claims by the manufacturers of older products, and evidence points to Power Balance bands working no better than a placebo. Sorry, guys.Sells PD, et al. (2014). Effect of a negative ion holographic bracelet on maximal aerobic performance. https: //journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/fulltext/2014/10000/ Effect_of_a_Negative_Ion_Holographic_Bracelet_on.25.aspx
The only advantage of Power Balance bracelets over a lucky rubber band is that theyâ€™re way more colorful (and at around $25, way more expensive).
Still, basic performance accessories continue to sell, as is obvious with the sheer number of items crowding the marketplace. Before you stick on your cynical hat, however, these bracelets may not be a shiny pile of faux- spiritual dinkum after all.Negative ion braceletâ€”Good for health? https: // goaskalice.columbia.edu/answered-questions/negative-ion-bracelet-%E2%80%94-good- health
Power vs. placebo
So, you ran out to buy a Power Balance bracelet, and it turned out not to be the Green Lantern power ring you were expecting. Never fear!
Other researchers suspect that the same may be true of more contemporary performance jewelry. While the technology behind the Power Balance and its kin might not work, they can create a placebo effect that puts you in the right headspace to outperform yourself.Ross, D. (2016) Do energy bracelets actually do anything? https: //sites.psu.edu/siowfa16/2016/09/15/do-energy-bracelets- actually-do-anything/
Great. So placebos can offer benefits with absolutely no risk. But didnâ€™t reading this article just ruin it?Kaptchuk TJ, et al. Placebos without deception: a randomized controlled trial in irritable bowel syndrome. https: // www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21203519
Not even close. Research suggests that people can benefit from the placebo effect even if they know itâ€™s a placebo.Richmond SJ, et al. (2009), Therapeutic effects of magnetic and copper bracelets in osteoarthritis: a randomised placebo-controlled crossover trial. https: //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/ 19942103
Old-school performance jewelry probably wonâ€™t work miracles, but thereâ€™s little to lose (besides whatever money you were going to drop on your next in-game costume pack on Fortnite).
If someone has the â€œSecret Stuffâ€ inside them already, believing in a bracelet, necklace, or gaudy pinkie ring could be just what they need to bring it out.
With new technologies and an understandable long-standing skepticism about whether a bracelet can turn you into a winner, Power Balance and its peers seem to be getting less attention. Focus is shifting from energy-wear to smart gear.Silina Y, et al. (2015). New directions in jewelry: a close look at emerging trends & developments in jewelry-like wearable devices. https: // qmro.qmul.ac.uk/xmlui/handle/123456789/11331
More advanced fitness trackers and connected watches are becoming the new way to â€œwrite down your track times.â€ These devices have tons of features, like heart rate monitors and routines. All the bells and whistles help to provide useful real time biofeedback and show data based trends.Kim J, et al. (2018) Wearable bioelectronics: Enzyme-based body-worn electronic devices. https: // www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30398344
Plus, modern wearables are readily available, come in many styles, and often wonâ€™t make an especially hefty dent in your bank balance.
Wearable sensors and devices continue to get smarter and more complex. Some recent research gives them two enthusiastic thumbs up and a heart reaction for their ability to track and improve performance.
One study from 2019 looked at information gathered straight from the horseâ€™s mouth (or wrist). Their findings suggested that when some athletes wear a sensor, they may reach the finish line more quickly and are less likely to face- plant while doing so.Seshadri DR, et al. (2019) Wearable sensors for monitoring the internal and external workload of the athlete. https: //www.nature.com/ articles/s41746-019-0149-2
In short, people who buy a FitBit may already be motivated to run faster, and their team trainers and medics can help them through slumps in form using personalized information.
Think about it: If someone tells you a hat looks dope on you, youâ€™re then likely to turn up to the club with a huge swag boost when itâ€™s part of your ensemble. (Especially if said hat collects numerical data about your on-fleekness, and your friends can make more educated suggestions about which kicks to wear with it.)
Admittedly, we may be some way off this technology. But itâ€™s fun to dream about cyberhats, and the principle is similar to the benefits of wearing a FitBit.
It might not be whatâ€™s on your wrist that makes you a champ, but what was already in your heart (cue the worldâ€™s smallest violin).
So, what should I do?
Power Balance and other low-tech performance-enhancing accessories might work, but only if you count that tricky placebo effect.
A better bet may be trying one of the emerging smart accessories. Though you might still experience a placebo influence, youâ€™ll also get cold, hard data about your performance.
You can use this data to alter your technique or activity level. This can, in turn, create beneficial habits that can boost your overall wellness and improve your performance.
You canâ€™t get swole from a bracelet, the same way no cloak will grant you invisibility in real life. But anything you feel might unlock your inner MVP is worth giving a go.
And yes, weâ€™re still looking for a functional invisibility cloak.
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