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Cool Things - Belt Vibrator

Walton belt vibrator, 1960sAre you tired of spending hours at the gym when you'd rather be watching TV or napping? Would you like to feel refreshed, alive, glowing, and stimulated? Then this belt vibrator is the machine for you!

Belt exercisers, like the Walton Belt Vibrator shown here, were sold in the 1960s and 1970s. Marketed as a means to get maximum exercise with minimum effort, these machines supposedly vibrated and massaged their users into an improved state of health. Most of the exercisers required the user to place a vibrating belt around a targeted part of the body. While it seems such devices were created especially for modern-day infomercials, they actually have been around since the 1850s.

Dr. Gustav Zander, a Swedish physician, developed the first belt exercisers. They were part of a system of active and passive exercise machines he used to rehabilitate the sick. Vibrating machines were part of the passive routine because they required little or no action by the user to make them work. These machines mimicked the act of massage, which some doctors believed was a key to good health. Massage was thought to relieve mental fatigue, carry toxins out of the body, and improve circulation and muscle tone. Moreover, massage increased energy and vigor. The system became popular with health seekers around the world.

Belt vibrator manualThough obviously a masseur could perform massage, doctors and spa owners thought machines could do it better. Machines were more efficient. They moved more quickly and didn't tire. Those receiving the massage came to believe that the machines were gentler and increased their relaxation. This was particularly important to white-collar workers, who felt mentally exhausted after a long day of thinking. They became the device's target audience.

A machine's ability to improve muscle tone and remove toxins was as important as its ability to relax the user. If the belt exerciser carried toxins from the body, wouldn't it make sense that it also could remove fat? Some advertisements promised that the vibrations of the machine loosened fat, which allowed the body to flush it away. Others suggested that the exercisers improved muscle tone, thereby improving the appearance of fleshier body parts. According to an ad from 1958, "It is this speeded up motion of your tissues…3200 times a minute…that aids in fast, effective, spot reduction…that actually helps trim down the size of your measurements wherever it embarrasses you most!" The ad also promised such results in only 15 minutes a day while the user read, watched television, or even napped.

Fifth  position recommended for Walton Belt VibratorThe popularity of vibrating exercisers has fluctuated over the years. Their use peaked between 1900 and 1930, and they made a comeback in the 1950s and 1960s. Unlike earlier models, the Walton came with the disclaimer that it was not meant for weight reduction. However, if you've been fretting over looking good in your bathing suit this summer, have no fear; vibrating exercisers exist in sleek new models. They promise rock-hard abs and jiggle free arms. We recommend keeping your gym membership, just in case.

The belt exerciser shown here was one of several of these machines owned by Hahn Rental and Sales in Emporia, Kansas. Patrons rented the devices for $10 a month. When the business closed, it offered this model to the Kansas Historical Society. It has been in the collections of the Society's Kansas Museum of History since 2002.

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Entry: Cool Things - Belt Vibrator

Author: Rebecca Martin

Date Created: August 2010

Date Modified: August 2010

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.