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Fitness Basics: Tune In to Fitness With Exercise Videos

Fitness Basics: Tune In to Fitness With Exercise Videos Get fit in your own space, at your own pace
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So the weather outside is frightful. Does that mean your fitness program goes on hiatus until the crocuses start blooming again?

Not a chance. With thousands of different fitness videos/DVDs available, you can choose a different activity for every day of the week -- and then some -- and never have to worry about braving the elements. Whether you're interested in aerobics, ballet, strength training, yoga, Pilates -- you name it; there's a workout video for you.

"There's so much variety when it comes to workout videos that you can certainly get a good workout ? if you can stay motivated," says Richard Cotton, an exercise physiologist in Carlsbad, Calif., and spokesman for the American Council on Exercise (ACE).

The main drawback with videos, says Cotton, is that they don't provide the energy of a live class, or the personal guidance of a fitness instructor. "It's always better to have a quality individual instructor, especially if you're going after high levels of fitness or sport," says Cotton.

But for those of us whose fitness goals are more modest, videos can indeed give a comprehensive workout. The key is to stick to the standard workout recommendations: do a routine three to four times a week, for at least 20 minutes a session, with five minutes each of warming up and cooling down.

Working Out at Home

Videos are good to use not only when you want to stay cozy inside, but also if you're too self-conscious to go to a gym, says Los Angeles yogi Marlon Braccia.

"It's OK if you don't want to work out in front of other people," says Braccia, creator of six yoga DVDs. "But working out at home still means having to get off the couch."

And for an exercise video to be effective, it needs to be at the level of the person watching it, says Braccia.

So, if you haven't budged from the sofa in the past 20 years, don't choose a video that offers an advanced workout. On the other hand, if you're a fitness fanatic who wants to supplement your regimen with some at-home workouts, don't slide by with something too easy. Not only will you not get the workout you need, you'll get bored.

To keep her viewers from losing interest once they've mastered the basics, Braccia divides her own DVD workouts into three to five sections, each more intense than the last. As you get comfortable with one section, you move on to the next. "In essence, you're becoming your own teacher," says Braccia.

Of course, yoga is just one of the workouts available on video. Most experts say you should include a variety of types in your routine.

"Cross-training is a good part of any exercise regimen, and it's no different with videos," says Michael A. Schwartz, MD, who specializes in orthopaedic surgery and sports medicine. "Different programs give you a chance to work multiple muscle groups.

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