Are Fitness Videos Sabotaging Your Workout?

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Fitness videos can hamper your workout goals, new research shows.

A study published in the Sociology of Sport Journal found that fitness DVDs — a $250 million-per-year industry — contain demotivating images and words.

Lead study author Brad Cardinal, a kinesiology professor at Oregon State University’s College of Public Health and Human Sciences, explains in an OSU news release:

“These findings raise concerns about the value of exercise DVDs in helping people develop and commit to a workout program.

There are a lot of exaggerated claims through the imagery and language of ‘do this and you’ll look like me.'”

For the study, researchers analyzed the imagery and language used in 10 popular commercial fitness DVDs led by instructors. Their goal was to better understand the visual and auditory messaging and how it might affect viewers.

The researchers’ main findings include:

  • Most instructors and models were slim, female, white and typically wore revealing attire. Cardinal says such imagery sends a subtle message about what fit people should look like, perpetuates objectification of the female body, and emphasizes physical appearance instead of improved health.
  • One-quarter of the language used by instructors was motivational, but 1 in 7 motivational statements was deemed negative (for example, “say hello to your sexy six-pack,” “you better be sweating,” “you should be dying right now”). Cardinal says such statements could reduce the effectiveness of the workout, diminish the viewer’s hope and potentially cause psychological harm.

In particular, these messages could be harmful for viewers who are relying on fitness DVDs to start a new workout routine or who are uncomfortable in a gym or fitness class setting, according to the research. The videos were marketed to novice exercisers, but the movement skills tended to be for intermediate to advanced levels of fitness while instructors taunted observers to keep up.

Cardinal explains:

“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.

If the experience is not positive, the likelihood the person is going to continue with an exercise program diminishes.”

For help sticking to your fitness resolutions without relying on DVDs, check out:

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