The return of the living room workout
You may think we left the home fitness trend back in the 1980s, but sales figures show that a new generation of health buffs are trading gym memberships for exercise DVDs. Celina Murphy test-drives some of the butt-kicking training videos leading the revival
There are a million reasons why stomping about in front of your telly in a flouro yellow two-piece is a bad idea, yet thousands of Irish fitness fans are risking irate neighbours, not to mention exposing themselves to the postman, in the name of getting fit.
More and more gym-goers are turning to TV workouts in a bid to save time and money, only this is not telly fitness as we remember it. The peppy, spandex-clad ringleaders that invaded our living rooms in the 1980s have been replaced with ripped, ruthless instructors spearheading the latest in exercise technology, and consumers are more than willing to have a go.
In the US, fitness DVD revenue has climbed 11.2pc in the past five years, while, on this side of the Atlantic, two of Amazon's current topfive bestselling DVDs fall in the fitness category.
Clearly, the exercise video is alive and well, but here's the important question; do the blasted things work? Web editor Karen Birney (24) is about to complete Jillian Michaels's 30-Day Shred along with a low-calorie diet, and has already lost a total of 10 inches from her arms, thighs, waist and hips.
“It kills at the start,” she says, “but after a few days you start to see a difference”.
But according to personal trainer Andy Kenny of AndyKennyFitness.com, the success rate with this kind of exercise is hit and miss. “Fitness DVDs have gotten results in the past for many people,” he says, “but I find in the long-term, results don’t last as they become repetitive and don’t teach new eating and exercise habits.”
Karen admits that there is always a temptation to give her workout sessions a miss. “I have to Google ‘Jillian Michaels’s results' before I do it, to give me motivation,” she explains, “and I go to myfitnesspal.com forums to look at the girls' before and after pictures”.
According to the same forums, a huge number of fitness DVD fans fall off the wagon, proving that the living room workout, although frugal and convenient, is not for everyone. The only way to find out if it can work for you is to push your couch aside and get sweating . . . so that's precisely what I did.
JILLIAN MICHAELS’S 30-DAY SHRED
Best-known as the ruthless, shrieking torturess from The Biggest Loser, Jillian Michaels is the most powerful force in fitness right now, having shifted more than five million copies of her DVDs.
The verdict: advocating a 30-minute training session every day for 30 days, this quickchanging combination workout is tough but manageable. The lack of rest time means you'll feel the burn more than with other programmes, but Jillian’s surprisingly placid encouragement makes it worthwhile.
Best for: total body sculpting.
Get it from: amazon.co.uk for about €10, or watch it online at youtube.com/user/BeFit.
JOSIE GIBSON’S 30 SECOND SLIM
Big Brother 2010 winner Josie Gibson knocked workout queen Davina McCall off the top of the charts with this high-intensity interval training workout, masterminded by personal trainer James Stark. In Josie's own words, “it’s great if you’re a bit lazy like me”.
The verdict: with each level lasting just 20 minutes, this one gets the job done fast. Excluding warm-up and cool down, you're only pushing yourself for 12 minutes, so it's a good option for those who really hate working out.
Best for: time-saving. Get it from: amazon.co.uk for about €15.
Billed as the “hardest workout ever put on DVD”, and promising a year's worth of results in 60 days, Insanity is, as the name suggests, not for the faint of heart. Developed by American instructor Shaun T, it favours long bursts of intense effort and short periods of rest.
The verdict: The fittest man I know told me he couldn't make it through the first five minutes of Insanity, and true to his word, the warm-up alone was tougher than every other workout I tested. This one's for hardcore fitness fans only.
Best for: lightning-fast results. Get it from: amazon.co.uk for about €120, including all 10 DVDs.
THE YOUTUBE OPTION
Boasting tutorials in everything from ballet to boxing, YouTube is home to hundreds of fitness channels offering free routines from experienced instructors. Among the best are BeFit, which uploads a new workout every single weekday, and Blogilates, specialising in an intense, up-tempo Pilates. The verdict: With so many exercise styles available, the YouTube fitness community is bound to keep you interested, and there's the added bonus of being able to communicate directly with the instructors
Best for: saving money.
Get it from: youtube.com/befit, youtube.com/blogilates and many more.
THE VINTAGE OPTION
Everyone from Mark Wahlberg to Angela Lansbury has released an exercise video over the years, but, seeing as so many modern workouts have been around for centuries, there's no reason why a flashback to the golden age of fitness can't be beneficial.
The verdict: Old-school workouts are generally milder than their 21st Century counterparts, but the good news is that there's never a dull moment. Raquel Welch's Total Beauty and Fitness is worth a look for the dodgy graphics alone, while Cindy Crawford's Shape Your Body hilariously resembles a George Michael music video.
Best for: beating boredom.
Get it from: your mum's dusty VHS collection, or YouTube.