- Are you considering using workout DVDs, but find yourself having doubts and questions?
- These are the benefits: What they can actually do for you
- … And the issues: Fitness professionals advise against the DVDs
- I put two popular DVDs to the test
Quite often when I tell people about my deep-rooted hatred for the gym and my desire to avoid it at all costs, I get a very similar response: “Why don’t you try Fitness DVDs?”, followed by a number of recommendations. I always see them advertised; celebrities seem to love getting a little bit obese and then filming an exercise DVD to make some extra cash if work is running low. Here’s Kim Kardashian, for example, talking about hers:
According to experts in business intelligence and market research IBIS World, the fitness DVD industry made around $297m in the US alone last year, and there is now apparently everything from videos showing you how to do yoga and Pilates to DVDs about dance (including Zumba) and of course good old-fashioned cardio and strength training on the market. After a quick search of www.amazon.co.uk, I even discovered a ‘Fitness For the Over 50’s’ DVD as well as one entitled ‘6 Kids Fitness Workouts’, so apparently there is something for almost everyone. Any remotely public person seems to be able to make one, from Kerry Katona to a woman called Rosemary Conley. No previous fitness knowledge required!
Now, I do realise that some of these DVDs are actually made with the audience’s best interest in mind and have not just been made to make money. I also realise that many people like them and use them regularly in their daily lives to keep fit. But why?
Molly Hansson, 22, as an avid fitness fanatic with the help of Davina McCall’s range of DVDs, sheds some light on this question: “I love workout DVDs because I hate going to the gym, so they allow me to work out at home without anyone watching.” She adds: “As a woman, I enjoy a good cardio session which a lot of these DVDs are able to provide. I can therefore exercise more than one muscle group without having to leave my home.”
That all sounds grand, doesn’t it? Somehow, I still find myself having certain doubts. There is something about the idea of watching perfectly polished and choreographed celebrities doing flawless workout routines, filmed in several takes, and shouting “you’re doing great!” that makes me feel like I am inadequate, like I should admire them and feel ashamed of myself.
Robbie Burns, a Level 2 Fitness Instructor from Southampton, shares my concerns. He argues that fitness DVDs are a “consumer gimmick” that are certainly not necessary for people to stay fit, and in fact won’t help if someone is not already motivated to work out. He also points out another problem with the DVDs: “They can be very general and the novelty will soon wear off. The exercises over time may cease to be physically demanding as the user gets fitter.”
I am torn, but I do realise I will have to attempt this type of workout myself before I make a final judgment. I decide to try two well-sold DVDs, one by Geordie Shore star Charlotte Crosby, and one by “veteran fitness queen” (as labelled by Daily Mail) Davina McCall, both picked up for a few pounds from my local Tesco. The two are very different in their marketing: Crosby’s DVD, for example, is entitled ‘3 Minute Belly Blitz’ and displays two large pictures of the TV personality, supposedly taken before and after she started using the workouts in the DVD, implying that this particular DVD is aimed at those who wish to lose weight quickly. McCall’s, on the other hand, simply named ‘Intense’, advertises exercises which sculpt and tone an already somewhat fit body. I am not sure what to expect…
I start with the ‘3 Minute Belly Blitz’. Instantly when pressing play, I cringe. Charlotte, in a full face of make-up and with hair collected flawlessly in a French braid, is flanked by two huge and rather intimidating men, whom I presume are her personal trainers.
They go through a heavily scripted dialogue together about the aim of the first session, and then start to demonstrate the first workout. Each workout set is only done for a 3 minute interval (hence the name of the DVD) which is actually quite appealing to chronically lazy people like me as it feels like you’re not pushing yourself too hard, which I suppose is the aim. The exercises are relatively straight-forward and one of the men even demonstrates ‘beginner’ versions of each of the moves, for people who want an easier option. There are a range of exercises for arms, abs and cardio all accompanied by constant encouragement from the leading lady, although nothing overly interesting or motivating. I do appreciate the fact that none of the exercises require much equipment – all that is used is a simple yoga mat.
Concluding that I am somewhat pleasantly surprised with Charlotte despite the cheesy script, unexciting moves and overly enthusiastic exclamations cheering me on, I move on to Davina. I have high hopes for this particular DVD since it has been repeatedly recommended to me. I start with the episode entitled ‘Cardio’, which includes High Intensity Interval Training designed to rapidly increase heart rate, and immediately I see clear differences that set this apart from Charlotte’s DVD: Davina, along with her assistant trainers Jackie and Mark, is casual and relaxed, and the three laugh together like close friends throughout the episode.
The emphasis here is on being comfortable with what you’re doing, but working hard nevertheless, as Davina encourages me to “do the exercises as hard as you can”. This instantly feels more accessible and relatable than Charlotte’s DVD and I find myself laughing at Davina’s facial expressions as we go through the workouts. She is natural and funny and absolutely bonkers, and I feel encouraged to try harder thanks to her positive attitude. Jackie, who leads the less advanced exercises, explains techniques thoroughly throughout, making sure the moves are being done correctly and safely, which is much appreciated. There are also many reminders to breathe and cool down after each interval, and it is explained that this is an important part of the training. There is a distinctly more professional but also friendlier feel to this DVD, which I would be happy to re-experience.
So, I admit that I may have been won over despite my initial doubts. But, since I don’t exactly adore a visit to the gym, and I worry that perhaps the DVDs will lose their charm, I am interested to see what my other options are. I once again ask Robbie Burns, who says he would not recommend the DVDs to his clients at ‘The Gym’ in Southampton, and who is keen to make other recommendations: “Join a sports club or go to a local park! There is often gym equipment there that can be used for free.”
Great. What else? Hamish Burke, coordinator of University of Hertfordshire’s Active Students Bootcamp initiative, strongly recommends classes instead of DVDs. He says: “Personally, I believe classes are much better for people looking to get fit. They make it easier to stay motivated with a set time each week to put aside for exercise. Fitness DVDs demand a more organised personality as well as self-motivation which can be difficult as the weeks go on and the novelty wears off.” Burke also notes that classes can sometimes work out to be cheaper than a gym membership and certainly less pricey than regular personal training.
So, will I use fitness DVDs again? Yes, definitely. My experience was certainly not as bad as I was expecting and I actually quite enjoyed my workout with Davina. But I also feel that there is more to be tried…
What do you think? Have you tried DVDs? If not, what do you do instead? Let me know in the comments!