Did You Resolve to Work Out with an Exercise Video?

Written by Audra
Published on January 4, 2018

When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, “get more exercise” is likely to be on our list, especially as we grow older and realize the many benefits of physical activity.

But this is also the time of year when it can be harder to get a good workout. It’s a busy time, and the weather might not be very inviting. We might join a gym, but that can be pricey. So more people these days are working out at home with an exercise video — whether it’s a DVD or, increasingly, an online video to stream or download.

These videos can provide a framework for a good workout, but according to a kinesiology professor from Oregon State University, we should choose a video carefully. Prof. Brad Cardinal, a national expert on the benefits of physical activity, evaluated ten popular commercial exercise videos, and found that many contain messages that could demotivate us—and could even be harmful to both our bodies and our self-image. Cardinal said, “These findings raise concerns about the value of exercise DVDs in helping people develop and commit to a workout program.”

In a study published in the Sociology of Sport Journal, Cardinal pointed out that the $250 million-per-year fitness DVD/video industry is largely unregulated. The instructors are not required to have credentials in fitness, and there is little scientific evidence about the safety and effectiveness of these products. Instructors are mostly young, conventionally attractive and slim — which sends a message about what fit people should look like, with an emphasis on appearance rather than on health. The videos often contain exaggerated claims; once it becomes obvious that we’re not getting the promised results, our motivation can evaporate quickly.

The one-size-fits-all nature of the videos could even be harmful. Cardinal reported, “There are questions about some of the exercises, which could lead to injuries and pose a real danger to the user.” For example, many videos that are marketed for beginners actually feature exercises that are more suited for intermediate or advanced levels of fitness. That can be discouraging when a viewer can’t keep up — and then it can be downright dangerous when the instructor goads the viewer to continue beyond a safe exertion point with tough-love language like “you better be sweating” or “you should be dying right now.”

Cardinal says to use caution when selecting an exercise video. “You’re inviting into your home these images and messages that could make you feel bad about yourself, and ultimately hinder your efforts to improve your health. If the experience is not positive, the likelihood that a person is going to continue with an exercise program diminishes.”

Above all, talk to your doctor about an exercise regimen that is right for you.

Source: IlluminAge AgeWise, reporting on a study from Oregon State University.