sunday life: does a power balance bracelet make you stronger, better?

This week I test a Power Balance bracelet.


So. I’ve been wearing one of those little silicone wristlets imbedded with two small holograms for a fortnight now. I felt compelled to test one. Power Balance bracelets are like Zumba – a phenomenon that crept up without my noticing. One day I woke up and everyone was wearing one. Or dissing them. Do they work? Do they make life better? I suppose I had to find out.

It’s been an interesting sociological experience. There are a lot of people out there who love to hate an energy adornment and tell you all about it. Day one, I was tyre-kicking at an open for inspection down the road and the real estate agent scoffed at me: “The only good thing about those bracelets? They help you spot a wanker”.

Oh, like Bluetooth earpieces, I almost said. But didn’t.

On the flipside, wearing a Power Balance bracelet is a bit like owning a vintage Peugeot. You attract other owners (who wave at you when they pass).  So it was that I kept meeting strangers sporting a PB who wanted to welcome me into their little club. They emerged at the gym, from behind the lat-pull machine, nodded at me, and asked, “How you finding it, eh? Performing better?”.

There are several of these energy bracelets on the market, but the Power Balance is the original and has attracted the most parochial following – Shaquille O’Neil and David Beckham wear one, so does, seemingly, every second AFL player. They’ve also attracted the most impassioned disdain. The Australian Skeptics seem hell-bent on exposing them as a scam, demanding scientific proof that they work, and Today Tonight has waded in.

The PB claim is that the holograms are ”embedded with frequencies that react positively with your body’s natural energy field” to improve flexibility, balance and strength. The company doesn’t reveal exactly how this occurs. But, as I write this column this morning (literally!), I received a press release announcing such claims contravene the Therapeutic Goods Act and the company have been forced to pull their advertising.

So. This aside, do I think they work? The Power Balance folk have a bunch of balance tests you can do to test things for yourself where you stand on one foot and have someone press down on your arm to challenge your balance, first without a PB, then with. My balance was certainly better with one. I seemed more earthed. Although when I went against PB’s instructions and did the test wearing the PB first, there was no difference (suggesting my body is simply more primed for balance on the second test). So I couldn’t be certain.

One woman with a ganglion on her wrist who I encountered waiting for a cab said she’s “pretty convinced” it fixed her lumpy wrist. A chiro from Brazil says it helps him surf with more flow. Me, I did feel I could stretch and balance better at yoga when I was wearing one. But better than what? What’s the objective comparison? The last time I did a class (when I’d eaten too many nachos beforehand)? In general, most people I met who’d tried a PB said they felt better for wearing one. Though they couldn’t be certain.

As I write this very paragraph (literally, again!) I’m told RMIT University have just completed (as in, today) what certainly seem to be the first rigorous tests worldwide of balance bracelets, using double-blinded protocol and a computerised dynamic posturography device, to see if posture and balance is indeed amped with a PB. Or whether it’s just placebo effect.

To be honest, though, the “scientific proof” makes little difference to me. I’m not a skeptic. Curious and entirely open to different takes on how life works? Yep. Prepared to limit myself to the need for scientific proof before an experience can be deemed to exist? Not so much. I’m also open to all kinds of energetic healing. I believe we’re energetic creatures connected to everything energetically. Thus, our health and wellbeing can be affected by EMFs, pinpricks to our meridians, the moon, and perhaps something as innocuous as piece of polyester film. I’m open, without the need for empirical proof, because I choose this. I enjoy the process of not “knowing”, but experiencing.

In this instance I didn’t particularly enjoy the experience – the energetic one or the sociological one. I chose, however, not to get outraged that they might just be a $60 scam. And simply made use of their 30-day return policy.

Have any of you kids tried one? Reckon they work? Reckon other energy devices/tricks work?

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