A reporter shares her personal experience taking an exercise class aimed at flattening what she calls her “mummy tummy,” the abdominal bulge more formally known as diastasis recti, a separation of abdominal muscles after pregnancy.
The story provides a lot of good details and explanations for the science behind the problem. Many sources were consulted for the story, and costs of the treatment were made clear. However, the story didn’t delve into the lack of research quite enough here–it posited one small, pilot study as fairly strong evidence that this method works. That may be the case, but that’s hard to know until more rigorous research is done, especially randomized research with a control group.
The mixture of the reporter’s own positive impressions of the limited medical research behind this technique could leave readers believing there is substantial proof that it works. A few more cautionary details would have helped the piece on this front.
The story provides the average cost of a 12-week training in the exercise technique as “around $100 to $300.” It also mentions alternatives like online classes and videos that are much less expensive.
The story is primarily a combination of anecdotes about a reporter’s personal experiences in a class, and interviews with a physician and a trainer. The physician, Geeta Sharma, published a study in 2014 about a small pilot experiment in 63 women to determine if a specific exercise method, named “the Dia Method” by its developer, Leah Keller, could reduce diastasis recti.
But the story does not give us numbers from the results from the 2014 study. The trainer is quoted saying the results were “100%” but does not explain this. We’re told that the study compared two groups of women – one group who began training during pregnancy and one group who started after delivery. We are not told how wide the diastasis recti was for the post-delivery group, and how much narrower at the conclusion. This information was available on Keller’s website, though. The story also should have pointed out that without a control group, it’s hard to really assess how beneficial the treatment was, even if the preliminary numbers look “promising.”
The story does not mention potential harms for the specific training that Keller provides. She is quoted saying that doing some abdominal exercises can cause harm, including common abdominal exercises like simple crunches and bicycle crunches. But her own special set is not subject to any warnings – even if these are unlikely, it would be better to say so explicitly.
For the one study it discusses about the “Dia” method, the story discloses that it was a small, pilot study. But other than that, it doesn’t disclose the limitations of the study–what makes a small, pilot study a weak form of evidence? What kind of research needs to be done to verify the findings? Is any of that research underway? We also wish the story had clearly indicated that the “Dia” method isn’t necessarily any more effective than home-based programs–we just don’t know yet, because of a lack of research.
Also, we did find several exercise-based studies (example) conducted since the one small pilot study, and we’re curious where those findings fit in and change what’s known about this intervention.
The story does not disease monger.
The story includes interviews with several independent experts, and we did not detect any undisclosed conflicts of interest with industry.
However, the story leans heavily on the testimony of the trainer whose method is profiled and who stands to benefit from positive publicity. (She markets herself as having received “unparalleled endorsement” from medical research.) The story could have done a better job of explaining how that poses a conflict of interest for the study that was performed. And it could have done more to mitigate this conflict by discussing the details of alternate training methods.
The story mentions three different training methods that are “widely” recommended by obstetricians and gynecologists.
Excerpt: “That said, there are a few exercise programs for diastasis recti that many doctors and physical therapists support. These include the Tupler Technique, Keller’s Dia Method and the MuTu System in the U.K.”
However, it’s not clear why someone just couldn’t go to a physical therapist or do free home workouts.
The story included information on where this and other exercise programs are available.
The story referred to research from three years ago, which is hardly new. But since this appears to be a feature/general-interest story (and not specifically about new study findings), we’ll rate this N/A.
The story did not rely on a news release.