Ask a Scientist: Are Waist Training Corsets Safe?

Sorry to sound like your mother, but just because the Kardashians wear them doesn't mean you should.

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corset training

The Scientist: Gina Sam, MD/MPH, Director of Mount Sinai Gastrointestinal Motility Center, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Attending Gastroenterologist

The Answer: Waist training corsets, also called waist trainers, are popular with celebs right now for putting external force on the body to create the coveted “hourglass figure.” Waist trainers do this by putting pressure on your stomach and intestines. Side effects of a too-tight corset range from heartburn and abdominal pain or pressure to colon discomfort and discomfort in the lower abdomen. If you’re wearing a waist training corset for just one evening, you may feel fine – but remember that your body goes right back to normal once you remove the garment.

A waist trainer is meant to be worn short-term. There’s no medical data yet on the safest length of time to keep one on, but don’t believe celebrities’ hype that makes it seem like they spend all day, every day in a colon-pinching corset. Celebrities may walk the red carpet with a corset on under a gown for one evening, but there’s no medical evidence to suggest hitting the gym while wearing a waist trainer (a la Kourtney Kardashian) will help you lose weight faster or shape yourself into an hourglass figure.

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If you feel heartburn or pressure, your waist trainer is too tight and you should remove it immediately. Cinch too tight, and you could even break a rib! Keep tabs on your body to be sure that you’re comfortable at all times. (Accurate bust-waist-hip measures will help you find the right size for you.)

Key takeaways: The name “waist trainer” itself is misleading, as you won’t be losing any weight or “training”/permanently changing your body by wearing one. Overall, if you’re looking to alter your figure, there’s no substitute for plain old diet and exercise.

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  • H Noelle

    Diet and exercise are necessary and important, but they won’t alter your waist to hip ratio, if that is your goal.

  • Sara

    This article is absolute B.S. Unless you have osteoporosis, the stitching in the fabric of a corset or waist trainer will tear long before there is enough pressure to break a rib. Know what you’re taking about before posting this kind of unscientific nonsense.

    As for safety, women wore corsets for hundreds of years and many lived to a ripe old age. (Yes, life expectancy was lower back then, but they also didn’t have antibiotics or vaccines, not because corsets were killing people).

    If you choose to waist train, the main thing to remember is that things have to be done gradually, and if you have pain, loosen up! And as for whether not the results are permanent….for some there does seem to be some permanent reduction in waist size (although not as much as when corsetted), and for others, no. But any time you put steady pressure on any part of the body, it will give way. For those of you who have a ring you wear all of the time, slide it up a little, and you will see that your body made a dent in your finger that will stay there for days after you remove that ring, even though the ring fits and isn’t putting intense pressure on your finger (until some pseudo-scientist decides that it’s suddenly “dangerous” to wear rings and writes a silly article threatening that rings cause nerve damage or claim that rings actually break fingers off) . Corsets and cinchers can have a similar effect on the torso that rings have on the finger.

  • Mere M

    Is it 2015 or 1915?