Breathe Off Fat

When we saw Oxycise, we just had to try it. Yes, it sounded too good to be true — but the lure of a no-sweat, calorie-blasting workout was too intriguing to pass up.

Tester: SarĂ­ Harrar, 43. “One year after my daughter was born, I still had 30 pounds to lose.”

Product claims: Burns 140 percent more calories than riding a stationary bicycle; trims pounds and inches.

Cost: $14.95 for the book; $29.95 for the beginner video set.

The experience: I enjoy breathing, but this program of abdominal breath work was boot camp for my lungs. I nearly hyperventilated the first few times: inhaling aggressively through my nose while smiling widely, sucking in my tummy, tilting my pelvis, squeezing my buttocks and tossing in a few Kegels. After three more sniffs for full oxygen intake, I was supposed to blow the air out through pursed lips while keeping my head up and my rear end tight. After exhaling three extra puffs — to really empty the lungs and work the abdominal muscles — the entire cycle started up again. I felt exhausted just following the directions. Solution: I adjusted the program to my needs. I took shallower breaths to avoid hyperventilating, and Oxycised in the car, totally skipping the poses. I felt more energized after a few rounds, but never looked forward to this forced breathing style.

The science: According to the researcher who tested Oxycise against stationary cycling, it was a very unscientific look at only three people. “The actual number of calories burned while doing Oxycise was only about two calories per minute, at best,” he said. You can burn more than double that by walking.

Results: After four weeks, the scale hadn’t budged, so I was totally shocked when I weighed in 6 1/2 pounds lighter at the 8-week mark. Here I must confess: I had also begun eating a lower-fat diet.

Analysis: Committing to doing the program made it easier for me to eat better. I was looking for a change, and when I wasn’t seeing it, I started to do things that I knew would work.

Expert opinion: Seven of the country’s leading weight loss experts reviewed our experience, and all agree that the change in diet was the likely cause of the weight loss — and that to their knowledge there is no valid scientific evidence to support Oxycise’s claims. “They simply defy physiological reality,” says Michael Zemel, Ph.D., director of the nutrition institute at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. “It’s like saying that people living in [high-altitude] Denver would be more obese than those living in New York because the amount of oxygen differs.”

What you have in your mind?