The New Way to Sculpt the Perfect Body (It's Not What You Think)

File this under weirdest workout ever: A swanky new fitness spa in -- where else? -- Los Angeles has their clientele  climb into of futuristic-looking "thermal pods," strap their feet into resistance bands adhered to the pod’s floor, and sweat it out for 30 minutes under the guidance of a trainer who oversees you from outside of the see-through bubble.

The Iobella workout is like exercising in a display tank at the aquarium -- without the water, of course.

Once that’s done, you get inside a personalized ozone chamber that clamps down around your body like a tortoise shell to infuse your body with oxygen.

Though you may feel like you’ve just stepped onto the set of Star Trek, rest assured, these kooky contraptions aren’t just for show, says Iobella owner Roxana Lissa, who hauled in these bad boys from Argentina after falling in love with the method there. According to Lissa, working out in 98-degree capsules helps incinerate more calories, maximizes fat-burning and even boosts metabolism. The oxygen chamber, she says, opens the body’s pores to clean out toxins and reduce the appearance of cellulite.

In other words, the solution to the perfect body -- a one-stop-shop for trimming tummies and decimating dimples -- has been hiding out in Argentina and Europe all these years, and someone has finally had the good sense to import it to the U.S. I wonder if they have a device there that will make me rich and younger, too.

Still, when someone guarantees a smooth, sleek physique in 30 minutes, how could I not be intrigued? Health Journalist Me rolls my eyes, but Runner Me who bemoans her cellulite and late-30s rolls desperately wants in. So before dropping $750 on six sessions, we went digging to find out if we could validate any claims to what sounds like the most convoluted workout ever.

According to professor Douglas Casa, Ph.D., department of kinesiology director and CEO of the Korey Stringer Institute at the University of Connecticut, there’s a reason why steamy workouts like Bikram yoga and Iobella are hotter than the heated rooms (or pods) they’re performed in. You can chide those lithe, sweaty yogis all you want, but the truth is, working out in intense heat gets you in shape faster, he says.

“If you hold the same exact intensity in the heat (as you would in cooler conditions), you will work harder and burn more calories in the same amount of time,” explains Casa. The caveat, he says, is that most people lower their intensity in the heat, because they can’t handle it. In which case, you obviously won’t get that extra burn.

Iobella, it turns out, helps counter such heat fatigue with an adjustable panel that allows you to exercise with your head inside or outside of the pod. Score one for the crazy fitness gizmo.

Other advantages to working out in a heated environment: It loosens the muscles to allow for greater stretching and, over time, greater flexibility, says Casa. Plus, there’s the placebo effect. “If you see yourself sweating, you think you’ve worked out harder and you feel like you’ve gotten more benefits,” he says. This can be a good thing, unless, of course, you reward yourself with a mountain of calories afterwards.

However, any claim that the extra sweating that occurs during intense workouts is cleaning out the body is “complete hogwash,” says Casa.

Scientifically sound or not, the spa guarantees “visible results” after six sessions. You may not drop pounds, but you will lose inches, says Lissa.

“I have tested pretty much every workout out there, and rarely do I find one that makes me want to continue going back because it's working and I like doing it. I have been doing Iobella two or three times a week for the last couple of months and I have definitely noticed a difference in my body, particularly my butt,” says devotee Laurel House, author of QuickieChick’s Cheat Sheet to Life, Love, Food, Fitness, Fashion and Finance on a Less than Fabulous Budget.

Underneath the gimmicky trappings, Iobella is really a resistance-training program, where personal trainers track your measurements and switch up your routine every six weeks. So whether it’s a magical method or simply a good workout with some expensive machines thrown in, I don’t doubt that you’d see results. Still, anything that complicated and expensive doesn’t seem very sustainable long-term (at least, not for this pocketbook).

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