Big-Screen Fitness at Home

Get fit for less with TV and DVD workouts

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By Lisa Browdy

Health Blogger

Jane Fonda's "Workout" video came out when I was in college, and I have a vivid memory of my sister and I attempting the routine in our living room. Jane was certainly twice our age, but we couldn't keep up with her and her perky cohorts in their striped leotards and leg warmers.

Thank goodness there is a lot more variety in fitness videos...I mean DVDs... these days. You can try "Sweating to the Oldies" with Richard Simmons, or endure a workout from the "Biggest Loser" trainers. If you are curious about Yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi or Kickboxing, the home fitness world is your oyster.

I used to purchase workout videos and DVDs, but invariably I would find them too difficult or too easy, or I would hate the music, or find the host annoying. It was a flash of genius when I figured out that Netflix carried a lot of fitness DVDs that I could try out at home for as long as I wanted.

Since you aren't purchasing them, you can branch out of your comfort zone to an exercise form you might not ordinarily try. And if you find something you really love, you can purchase the DVD for your own, or even try a "real-life" class in the area. If you aren't a Netflix member (a lot of folks quit over the recent price increase) you have other options. Neither Redbox nor the few remaining area video rental shops carry fitness DVDs, but the Oak Park Public Library has a pretty good collection. You need to return them after one week (and can renew them once) but they are absolutely free.

And speaking of free, one of my favorite workout shows, "Body Electric," is on commercial-free public television. The host is a woman in late middle age who is healthy, not twig-thin. And if that isn't great enough, the show gets to use music that you might have in your own collection rather than that syntho-pop beat most workout videos have. You need a set of light hand weights for some of it, and it helps to have a good DVR or be an early riser: "Body Electric" airs at 6:30 a.m. on WYCC, channel 20.

I'm not a fan of the fitness channel on cable, because the shows there take breaks for commercials and instruct us to keep going. I just feel dorky exercising to advertisements. Some of my friends swear by the Wii fitness programs, which seem like a lot of fun, and definitely a good idea to try out if you have a Wii handy.

And just in case you missed it on Wednesday, you can get 3-8 minute workouts from Activity Bursts Everywhere at that are suitable for home, office, or waiting room. And let's not forget YouTube! You can view snippets from countless exercise routines on this free service.

I spoke to a personal trainer to get some guidelines on things readers should be aware of before getting involved in a home fitness routine. Danny Colapietro of Fitness Formula Clubs says that motivated people can get a good workout at home (he's a fan of the P90x series because it includes nutritional advice and a wide variety of movements). When he works with a client, he finds out about their medications, surgeries, and even their genetic background. "Modifying is a huge part of being a trainer," he explains. "I need to be aware of their situation so I can do special adaptations."

Even if you are in perfect health, a fitness video can't tell you if your form is incorrect, or if you are risking injury by doing too much too soon. Colapietro suggests doing a workout DVD without weights or with the easiest modifications the first time through, then adding on when you feel comfortable with the routine. He recommends making sure that you do some strength (lifting weights or your own self, as in pushups), cardio (usually involving sweat) and stretching so you get a well-rounded workout.

So what equipment do you need to have at home for most fitness DVDs? I have a yoga mat (good for pushups and crunches), a few sets of hand weights (3, 5, and 8 lbs.) and a stability ball (highly optional). It also helps to have your TV screen in a room with a high enough ceiling that you can raise your arms and jump a bit. I learned that one the hard way.

A Nia update for those intrigued by my blog post from two weeks ago: Teacher Pam Berk has two new Nia classes on Tuesdays: 9:00 a.m. at Pineapple Dance Studio in Forest Park, and 6:15 p.m. at Bellafit in Riverside.

Email: Twitter: LisaBrowdy

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