Does the ROM Exercise Machine Work?

The ROM Machine is a home exercise module that carries the extraordinary claim that it can offer a complete aerobic workout in only four minutes as well as an exorbitant price tag, retailing for just under $15,000 as of April 2011. The makers of the ROM Machine, which has been on the market since 1990, make assertions about the product which, if proven true, would essentially revolutionize the field of exercise physiology.


The ROM machine resembles a hybrid of an exercise bicycle, a rowing machine and a stair-climbing machine. It is unclear how, or if, all of these features can be separately engaged in only four minutes. The machine requires a 5-by-11-foot space and weighs 405 lbs. The recommended ceiling height is 8 feet. The machine comes with an instructional booklet, a DVD and an exercise mat to place under the machine.


On the ROM Machine's website, its makers state that the standard recommendation of exercising for 20 to 45 minutes per session to achieve aerobic gains is founded on a myth, and that the much higher rate of oxygen use on the ROM Machine translates into the same benefits in a much shorter time. There are various assertions about the machine's effectiveness that are not supported with scientific evidence. "I read the entire ROM website, read the reports and watched the videos," says American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer Bret Spottke. "I found no hard data that supports the claims they're making about the device."

Physician's and Professor's Reviews

Harriet Hall, M.D., a contributor to the website Science-Based Medicine, was unconvinced of the utility of the ROM Machine after watching the informational DVD. Hall states that it would be dangerous for an elderly or out-of-shape person to use it as suggested. Concerning the studies described on the ROM Machine website, Hall says that "none of [them] support the advertising claims." Dr. Robert Girandola of the University of Southern California, who led a 1995 study involving the machine, was emphatic in his rejection of the manufacturer's claims: "I would never recommend the ROM for just 4 minutes, as compared to a 30 min aerobic workout."

A Personal Trainer's Opinion

Spottke states that the ROM Machine has inherent limitations independent of the claims on the site. He cites the ROM Machine's keeping the body fixed in a single plane of motion throughout the entire range of movements and its not being ergonomic for all users as two drawbacks. He also notes that "the ROM only compares itself to cardio exercise in its' comparison models and not to a combination of cardio and resistance training." A 1995 study of its effectiveness compared ROM users to non-exercising controls rather than to people using a different form of exercise, thereby limiting the relevance of any collected data.


The makers of the ROM Machine, like the manufacturers of other pieces of exercise equipment, make a variety of claims about its benefits. Experts in the worlds of medicine, exercise physiology and personal training disagree with the fundamental claims of the machine's manufacturer and recommend that people seeking to improve their personal fitness would be much better served by a less expensive, more time-tested type of equipment. Says Spottke, "You can get a better workout on a rowing machine, doing squats and dumbbell bench presses."

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