Fitness Fad Fridays: ‘Designing my body’ without breaking a sweat in a HYPOXI pod

In a never-ending quest to make us spend more money, the health and beauty industry comes up with creative ways to tell us we’re fat, and correspondingly creative ways to tell us how to lose it. Sometimes it seems that the city’s health-conscious residents are more susceptible to trying out the latest fitness fads than they are to catching SARS.

Coconuts Hong Kong’s associate editor Laurel Chor is going to save you the trouble by sweating her way through all the latest fads in this new five-part, biweekly series. We review anonymously and pay for ourselves.

Why go about the time-tested method of eating less and exercising more when you can just throw wads of cash at a magic machine and lose weight in your problem areas while barely breaking a sweat?
You might have seen the ads for it online: a studio that offers HYPOXI, “one of the most scientifically recommended targeted fat and cellulite reduction systems” according to its website. The ads usually include a photo of a woman looking very happy while the lower half of her body is concealed in some sort of space capsule, her expression not unlike those of women laughing at salads in those ubiquitous stock photos.

I always laughed at how ridiculous it looked, so when I saw that it offered a free trial, I naturally jumped at the chance to try it out for myself at HYPOXI’s Central location. (Especially when it normally costs approximately an arm, a leg, and your firstborn child: a 12-training package costs HKD7,988). 

According to the website of Hong Kong’s only HYPOXI studio, the system, designed by an Australian doctor, “has been scientifically proven to offer three times more circumference loss than any regular exercise, offering significant results in a shorter time frame”. Cue skeptical eyebrow raise.

The first step is to spend 20 minutes of “HYPOXI-Dermology”, in which you wear a crazy-looking astronaut suit and let a machine do the work as it applies alternating high and low pressure on your body.

The nice studio manager, who seems to genuinely believe in the technology, explains to me that it’s good for “exercising my skin”, and that it’s especially good for cellulite. I was not aware that my skin was a muscle that needed exercising, but I guess they didn’t cover that in my yearlong Human Biology course in university.

The machine also apparently “prepares” my body for the upcoming HYPOXI-Training, making the treatment more effective. Science!

Before she helps me into the monster of the heavy-duty suit she asks me if I have breast implants, explaining that they could burst in the suit and reassuring me that she has to ask all clients that question. 

I stop myself from picturing this awful scenario happening to a surgically enhanced person, and instead distract myself by pretending I’m about to descened to the bottom of the ocean wearing a 1950s dive suit, because that’s exactly what it feels like as she attaches various tubes to my body and tightens straps around my neck and limbs. 

I lay down, she pressed some buttons, and the suit slowly constricted itself around my body. I imagine this is what it’s like in the early stages of death when being eaten by a boa constrictor.

After I manage to suppress the pangs of my mild claustrophobia, I actually feel quite relaxed, and I manage to fall asleep, with the suit feeling like a dozen fish giving me gentle fish kisses, in the least horrifying way possible.  

After the 20 minutes are up and I wake up from my deep albeit brief nap, it’s time for half an hour of HYPOXI-Training.

The studio manager straps on a heart monitor around my chest, a heat monitor around my thigh, and a neoprene skirt that allows the pod to form a seal around my waist. She explains that the machine will help to increase the temperature in my lower body as I pedal, which will thus hasten the burning of fat in my lower body. Science again!

She tells me to keep my heart rate between 60 and 80, which requires me to pedal at a pace slower than a crawl – clearly, they use the word “training” lightly here. It’s an odd sensation as the machine alternates between sucking all the air out of the pod, and blowing it back in to vary the pressure. Again, it just feels like a massage, so I’m not complaining.

Since I don’t even break a sweat, am sitting comfortably upright and able to use my phone, the 30 minutes go by quickly, and I decide that I could definitely work out like this the rest of my life if it does indeed count as exercise.

Though I didn’t see any results (shocker!) I can’t say I followed the full HYPOXI protocol: they say it takes a few sessions before results show, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to follow the dietary recommendations.

(You’re supposed to have a small meal two to four hours before your session, have no food for two hours after, then for the rest of the day you’re not allowed any carbs, alcohol or sugar. Yeah, I’d probably lose weight if I ate like that three times a week as advised, too.)

If you’ve got more time and money than you know what to do with, then maaaaybe it’s worth a try, just to see if super rich people really do have it so easy they can defy the basic tenements of biology and lose weight with minimal effort.  

What: HYPOXI (more info)
Where: Central – 8/F, EuBank Plaza, 9 Chiu Lung Street (Google Maps); Tsim Sha Tsui – Rm 705, 7/F, Carnarvon Plaza, 20 Carnarvon Road (Google Maps)
Price: Packages start from HKD1,888 and go up to HKD42,888 

Related stories: 

Fitness Fad Fridays: Cycling, dancing and clubbing all rolled into one at XYZ

Fitness Fad Fridays: Trampoline cardio at BounceLimit

Fitness Fad Fridays: Analysing body fat with scary precision using a DEXA scan

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