Aug. 14, 2000 -- Judging by the fitness video jacket, we figure anybody who looks that good must be doing something right. But that's not always true, according to fitness experts and health care professionals. Some celebrity videos feature well-known trainers, but there's no one routine that's right for everyone. So, to get the most for your money, shop wisely and talk with a trainer about a fitness program that's right for you.
If you have heart disease, for example, fitness videos can even be risky. "Exercise raises your heart rate and blood pressure, so you've got to build up slowly to reduce the risk of heart attack," says Kathy Lee Bishop-Lindsay, PT, the director of Atlanta's Heart Wise Risk Reduction Program at Emory University Hospital. "But, celebrity videos are targeted to healthy young people, not older adults with heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, or osteoporosis."
Surprisingly, the opposite is true during pregnancy. "There are a couple of celebrity fitness videos for pregnant women, but neither provides much of workout," says certified group fitness instructor Lisa Stone, a board member of the National Association of Health and Fitness and founder of Fit for 2, a fitness program for expectant mothers. "They're both over 10 years old, so they reflect an outdated idea that pregnant women are too sick to work out."
For the best return on your video investment, Bishop-Lindsay and Stone have some advice:
- Make selections that feature certified fitness experts, not just celebrities
- Look for content sources such as the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM)
- Rent before you buy whenever possible
But even the best fitness videos can't offer personalized instruction. "If you've been inactive or don't have a lot of exercise experience, you need good instruction to prevent injuries," says John Cianca, MD, an assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. "And, you'll get more for your money with a personal trainer than by watching someone on a tape," he tells WebMD.
In fact, personal trainers adjust your routine about every three months. "Celebrity videos promise rapid fitness gains, but long-term gains are made slowly and steadily," says Paul Cacolice, ATC, CSCS, a clinical athletic trainer in Enfield, Conn. "That's why good trainers change your program every 12 weeks or so, making sure that you keep on progressing."
For optimum fitness over the long haul, Cianca and Cacolice suggest the following:
- Look for a certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS)
- Budget between $35-75 per hour, depending on your location
- Interview several trainers, focusing on your personal fitness goals
- Build a foundation, then continue to make gains in a graded fashion
By all means, check with your doctor before beginning any fitness program. "If you're over the age of 40, see your primary care physician before starting a new exercise program," sports medicine specialist Rayden Cody, MD, an assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Emory University School of Medicine, tells WebMD. "If you're overweight and have been sedentary, or if you have high blood pressure and high cholesterol, you might need an exercise stress test."
Once your doctor gives the OK, Cody advises exercise based on ACSM guidelines:
- Walk, run, cycle, swim, or dance 3-5 days a week for 30-50 minutes
- Monitor your heart rate continuously
- Exercise between 65% and 90% of your maximum heart rate (a rough rule of thumb for healthy people is: 220-age=maximum heart rate)