It may be time to press pause on fitness DVDs for good. While pumping it up at home may be more comfortable than in a room of sweaty strangers, a recent study from Oregon State University suggests that the $250 million a year industry can be damaging to psychological health. After examining 10 popular exercise DVDs, researchers found they projected unrealistic expectations in terms of verbal communication and imagery.
For example, a majority of the instructors were thin females in revealing workout gear, spotlighting a model-esque appearance over an average healthy body. And while 25% of instructor language was deemed inspirational, 1 in 7 statements had adverse undertones like “You better be sweating” and “You should be dying right now”, hinting that unless users were drenched and panting, their effort wasn’t worthy. The television also acts a barrier between trainer and trainee, making it impossible to assess the fitness level, injuries, or general health of participants. Whether you’re an Ironman champ or break a sweat peeling an orange, the instruction remains the same.
Those embarking on a new weight-loss journey should be especially wary of demoralizing DVDs. “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,” said Brad Cardinal, a kinesiology professor at Oregon State and lead author of the study. “If the experience is not positive, the likelihood the person is going to continue with an exercise program diminishes.”
Since The American Heart Association recommends five, 30-minute sweat sessions per week for the average adult, maintaining a fitness regimen is crucial for a healthy lifestyle. Group fitness classes are proven morale boosters due to inclusiveness and social support. As written on , “Fitness classes are a wonderful place to meet people who have similar lifestyle goals and needs. Make friends, have adult conversations, and discover solutions to problems as you talk with other participants before and after class.” More importantly, trainers can personally demonstrate modifications and take injuries into account.
Fitness DVDs also lose out on accountability, allowing users to cheat or end early with just the push of a button. A virtual Jillian Michaels is oblivious whether you sail through each move or hit pause and dial up Taco Bell. Group fitness can boost motivation, from showing up to class to cranking through those final reps. Nobody wants to be the one that flaked or couldn’t keep up (or bolted for some burritos).Still not convinced to break up with your digital trainer? Getting your sweat on to a DVD is obviously better than no workout at all, so be aware of these negative tendencies and just do you. There’s no shame in pausing to catch your breath or stopping for a sip of water. And video or not, avoid the comparison trap, whether it’s with a friend, trainer, or celebrity. As much as I love her, mimicking Adriana Lima’s boxing workouts won’t transform me into a 5-foot-10 supermodel. “Don’t expect to get the same results as what you see on the screen or compare yourself to others” Cardinal warns. You’re only as good as your mindset, so keep it positive in workouts and in life.