We have already talked here, here, here, and here about how and why “balance bracelets”, and any of their kin (ion bracelets, iRenew, Power Balance, magnets, etc.), are implausible (nigh impossible), have no mechanism for action, rely on simple physics to fool you, have been exposed in Australia as having no scientific basis whatsoever, and are thoroughly an exercise in pseudoscience.
That was all based upon knowledge of physics and the red flags of pseudoscience. However, we now have a brand new study appearing in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research that rigorously puts the claims of these balance bracelets to the test.
Before we go on to the study, it will be useful to remind ourselves what the general claims of these balance bracelets are. Here’s an example taken from the iRenew website:
iRenew bracelets are infused with Selective Frequency Resonance technology [it sounds like bogus because it is] which makes them different from every other wristband on the market. A recent study concluded that iRenew’s SFR technology may promote, balance, strength and endurance.
So what we would be looking for, and what is claimed by these products of all kinds, is an increase in balance, strength, and endurance (let’s throw flexibility in there for good measure).
So, if the claims are to be considered accurate, then empirically testing their own criteria should yield at least some benefit to users being tested. Many of these bracelets also claim to have research that supports them, however, it rarely if ever is controlled in a legitimately scientific way.
To settle this, the study used 24 subjects (10 males and 14 females) in a counterbalanced, double-blinded, placebo-controlled subject design. This way there would be no confounding variables or subtle biases that could skew results. Each of the subjects participated in three treatment sessions, consisting of Power Balance®, placebo band, and no band. Using separate bands, their legitimacy blinded from participants and researchers alike, prevented any researcher or participant bias and enabled researchers to make comparisons across the tests, i.e., if the “real” bracelets do not outperform the fake ones, the “real” bracelets do not work.
Furthermore, the actual testing of these criteria were subjected to common methods that would suss out if there was any actual benefit to wearing these bracelets. Strength and flexibility were measured using a MicroFit system (strength was measured via a bicep curl and flexibility via a sit-and-reach). Balance was measured by the BIODEX System.
After all the measurements and tests were completed, this is what the study found:
The results indicate that the Power Balance® bands did not have an effect on strength, flexibility, or balance.
I know that the researchers did not test every type of balance bracelet out there, but these bracelets are so similar in their lack of evidence or science, their claims about performance, and their marketing, that generalizations can be made between them.
These bracelets take advantage of simple tricks to fool you into thinking that you should pay 60 dollars for something that costs less than 1 dollar to make. [You can refer to this post if you to learn these tricks and fool your friends with them] They have no evidence or even plausible science to back them up. When actual science is done, they fail miserably.
If you want to increase your balance, strength, or flexibility, go to the gym and work on it. Taking advantage of the instant gratification mentality does not confer any sort of believability to these bracelets. You will not become a pro-athlete, or even a better one, by putting a holographic sticker on your wrist. It may be enticing when you see pro-athletes endorsing these products, but keep in mind that most of them are highly superstitious, are already great athletes, and, while they are highly trained to play a sport, they are complete novices when it comes to detecting pseudoscience. Real improvement, especially physical improvement, takes hard work and dedication, not 90 cents worth of silicone.
Balance bracelets, every iteration of them included, are a sham, con, trick, whatever you want to call it, but they do not and plausibly cannot work. The science bares it out, and has bared that out, every time.