Are Waist Trainers Good for You?

We take a look at these constricting garments, and medical experts weigh in

woman in athletic clothes wearing a waist trainer Photo: Aleksei Gorelov/Getty Images

If you’ve been watching popular shows and scrolling through #FitTok lately, there’s a very good chance you’ve seen lots of cinched waists—including the corseted costumes in hit series like “Bridgerton,” “The Gilded Age,” and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” and the elastic waist trainers worn by fitness influencers and the Kardashians on social media. 

People have squished their bodies into corsets for centuries, but today’s popular hourglass-enhancing garments look quite different. Some of these waist trainers are even used for medical purposes. But are they safe to wear?

The experts we spoke with say they certainly don’t help whittle the waist, and while they can help people with medical conditions get back into exercise, people should limit wearing them to just a couple of hours a day.

What Are Waist Trainers?

Waist trainers, also known as binders and fajas, are stretchy compression bands worn around the torso. They’re usually made of thick elastic fabric or neoprene with Velcro, or hooks to keep them strapped around your midsection. They’re commonly worn under clothes and during exercise to shape the waist but are also used as a postpartum garment for support. Sometimes they’re recommended in physical therapy to reduce pain for overweight or injured patients and to get people moving again.

Waist Trainer Claims

Claim: They Whittle the Waist and Encourage Weight Loss
Many waist trainers are marketed as garments that trim and mold the waist into an hourglass figure by encouraging sweat during exercise and reshaping the fat in the area. 

“I saw people on Facebook and Instagram promoting them, so I bought one,” says Mari Berryman, who lives in southern California. She says she wore a neoprene waist trainer while exercising over the course of a year. “It was comfortable, and I noticed a difference.” She says she lost 2 to 3 inches off her waist over that period but acknowledges she was also eating healthy foods and exercising 45 minutes a day, so she doesn’t know how much the waist trainer contributed to the results. “Basically, I felt it helped support me and gave me that extra push [to work out].”

More on Diet and Fitness

Throughout the day she would wear a lighter waist trainer under her clothes. “It would kind of keep everything nice and tight,” she says. “Clothes would look better when I had it on.”

Medical experts say that any waist-trimming effect is fleeting (lasting only as long as you wear the waist trainer), and that waist trainers don’t accelerate weight loss or reduction in waist size. “You might get this immediate temporary effect of having your waist look smaller, but it’s not real,” says Taz Bhatia, MD, a physician and integrative health expert. “It’s not doing anything for losing belly fat or helping with weight loss, the things that truly make a waist look smaller over time.”

Waist trainers that are sold with the claim that they’ll make you sweat are typically made of thick neoprene and can lead to overheating. “It allows you to sweat a lot, but you can’t cool off,” says Elizabeth Makous, a physical therapist and pelvic health expert. If you’re not cardiovascularly ready to get your core temperature up fast, you could become dehydrated and develop heatstroke. 

Claim: They Help the Body Heal
Whether it’s post-surgery or postpartum, health experts say that binding the torso can help bodies bounce back. 

“The faja helped me heal faster during my recovery from Brazilian butt-lift surgery,” says Maria Nuno, who wore one as recommended by her plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills.

Binders are also used and sometimes prescribed to help people with hernias or diastasis recti (abdominal separation) during exercise or exertion so that the gap can slowly close. 

“An abdominal binder can maybe bring you back to where you were [prepregnancy],” Makous says. “But the binder alone is not going to do anything without exercise, and it certainly won’t make your body something it wasn’t originally.”

Whether you’re using one to support a hernia or loss of abdominal musculature postpartum or post-surgery, the key is to coddle, not tightly constrict, the torso. “You’re just gently supporting the lower back and those abdominal muscles so that they can slowly snap back to where they were before,” Bhatia says. You should still be able to breathe and move comfortably.

If you have health issues, seek out a medical professional or physical therapist to make sure you’re wearing the right type of garment and wearing it correctly. They’ll make sure the binder isn’t causing or aggravating problems or pelvic prolapse, a condition where the bladder, uterus, or rectum can start to descend.

young sporty woman putting on a waist trainer

Photo: Adobe Stock Photo: Adobe Stock

Claim: They Make People Eat Less
Both Berryman and Nuno report eating less while wearing waist trainers. In theory, though not based on any evidence, waist trainers could restrict gastric distention if worn tight enough, says John Romanelli, MD, the medical director of weight-loss surgery at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Mass. “It can also restrict breathing if worn that tight,” he says. “Both could in turn lead to smaller portion sizes, less calorie intake, and weight loss. But it does not cause a stimulation of the satiety center, so in between meals, hunger might sabotage whatever weight could be lost with the trainer.”

Claim: They Promote Good Posture
“A binder can help remind a person to stand up and sit straight,” Makous says. “It’s really hard to slump in a binder, but it’s really easy to slump without it.” Slumping, Makous explains, can lead to weaker abdominal muscles and weaker pelvic floor muscles.

Claim: They Boost Confidence
Adults who wear them say they look and feel better, but Bhatia is concerned that the marketing of these garments could be harmful to teenagers who aren’t mature enough to handle such images on social media. “I think the message needs to be self-acceptance,” says Bhatia, who’s concerned about young girls grappling with images of impossibly curvy women online. “When we have 13-year-old girls putting waist trainers on, we really have a societal problem. Anxiety, suicide, and mental health issues in our girls are just through the roof.”

Are Waist Trainers Safe to Wear?

There are no medical publications that have evaluated waist trainers. “Not one single paper,” Romanelli says. So while there’s scant evidence that waist trainers do harm, he and some other medical experts have concerns that they can increase intra-abdominal pressure. “Anything that restricts your torso is not good from a physiologic standpoint,” he says. 

Constricting your waist—essentially, smooshing your organs—for an extended period of time can also lead to gastrointestinal problems, pelvic floor issues, and nerve damage. Bhatia says that constricting the diaphragm for hours on end has an impact on where air can go in the body and on the quality of our breathing. How we breathe also affects the pelvic floor, which is highly dependent on the diaphragm. The pelvic floor relaxes during deep inhalations. When that can’t happen, we can expect bladder issues, painful intercourse, and trouble with orgasm.

That said, if wearing a binder helps get you through a workout more comfortably or confidently—or you just want a temporary hourglass shape for a special occasion—our experts say that a couple of hours will probably be fine as long as you can breathe in it and don’t feel too restricted. 

“If waist trainers are going to be the ticket to get people to be comfortable to go out in public and exercise in a gym, then great, I’m all for it,” Romanelli says. “But it’s an exercise-enabling device, not a substitute for diet and exercise.”

Tips for Buying a Waist Trainer

The best reason to buy a waist trainer is for a medical condition, and you can ask your doctor or physical therapist to help find you the right one. If you don’t have a medical reason but are adamant about trying one out, opt for one that isn’t hard or super-tight. 

Material: Bhatia says flexibility is key; look for fabrics that stretch as you breathe and move with the body. Think Ace bandage material. Elasticity will allow your muscles to be stimulated to work, Makous says. 

Fit: “The biggest thing is finding the right brace for the right body type,” Makous says. “There’s no one-size-fits-all.” Berryman went through several waist trainers before finding the right one on Amazon. She recommends shopping at a store with a generous return policy. Nuno ordered hers from a shop that custom-made it for her measurements, so it fit perfectly on the first try.

Adjustability: You should be comfortable enough to sit, stand, and do things in it. And the more adjustable it is, the better. In general, Velcro-type closures are best.

Headshot of Perry Santanachote, editor with the Home editorial team at Consumer Reports

Perry Santanachote

I cover the intersection of people, products, and sustainability, and try to provide humorous but useful advice for everyday living. I love to dive deep into how things work, and debunking myths might be my favorite pastime. But what I aim to be above all else is a guiding voice while you're shopping, telling you what's a value, what's a rip-off, and what's just right for you and your family.