Shock your way to fitness

Almost 30% of Canadians say their New Year’s resolution is to improve their fitness. Now, more and more gyms are advocating for one weird trick that could help: Electrocution.

Driving the news: Whole body electrical muscle stimulation (EMS) is a technique in which users put on an electrode-studded suit attached to a machine that shoots electrical impulses to their muscles while they exercise—allegedly making for a more intense, efficient workout. 

  • Proponents claim that a 20-minute EMS-aided workout gives users the same benefits as two-and-a-half hours of traditional, zap-free strength training.  

Fitness and health centres are increasingly offering EMS options, with some even dedicated entirely to EMS. One example is Thornhill, Ontario’s GoGo Muscle, which bills itself as North America’s first EMS-specialized training facility (and charges a cool $99 per visit).

  • While studies have deemed EMS effective in some cases, experts and regulators have concerns over potential harms, including burns, muscle damage, or rhabdo—a potentially fatal condition in which overused muscles release proteins and electrolytes into the blood, damaging a person’s heart and kidneys.

Why it matters: The jury’s still out on EMS, but its widespread adoption continues to be fuelled by the timeless appeal of a product that promises to make reaching fitness goals easier. All signs point to zapping becoming the next big health craze to run its course.