The latest in workout-tapes
After years of lounging about on the video best-seller lists, workout cassettes have suddenly huffed and puffed their way to occupying about half of the top 25 slots. Why?
Lots of the people — mostly women — who have been grabbing up Jane Fonda, Kathy Smith, and Cher from the video shelves since the beginning of the year seem to have made the same New Year’s resolution. They’re aiming to (a) shed that post-holiday 5-pound gain (along with the extra 10 they already had); (b) start (or resume) exercising; (c) save money (essential if you’re unemployed and job hunting). After all, a couple of tapes, a set of free weights, and maybe even a step bench are a lot cheaper than a $1,000 membership to a fancy fitness club.
The problem is, few tapes give you the whole fitness picture, and their makers seem to release a ”new” approach every six months. Take the subject of fat. To get rid of it, diets don’t always work; what does work is cutting fat out of your meals and snacks, which is explained well in Jane Fonda’s Lean Routine (1990). A- Then you need to exercise aerobically to burn off the fat you already have stored up, shown in Fonda’s tape and in Kathy Smith’s Fat Burning Workout (1988). B+ Both tapes give it to you straight: You’ll have to exercise in your target heart-rate zone at least three times a week and probably more if you really want to lose weight. What these tapes neglect to mention, though, is the importace of weight or resistance training to lose even more weight and to replace that fat with muscle.
The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn-even after you stop exercising. And muscles counteract that ”middle-age spread” caused by decreasing exercise and loss of muscle tissue. So Fonda gets you into the fold again with Jane Fonda’s Complete Workout (1989), which includes two weight-training segments. A Too bad she didn’t get it all together in the previous tape. Of course, toning exercises without weights can do a lot for those most hated parts of our bodies: the stomach, hips, thighs, and tush. No wonder Kathy Smith’s Ultimate Stomach and Thighs (1989) and Jane Fonda’s Lower Body Solution (1991) are so appealing (A- and B+ respectively).
In reaction to injuries caused by decade-old aerobics not protective of the lower back, Callan Pinckney has exercised another option with her non-aerobic, deep-muscle conditioning series, Callanetics (1986). If you can last through 60 minutes of the most intense isometrics you never thought you could do, you will tone up safely — but her claims about toning the skin on your arms and lifting the bust with sit-ups don’t hold up. C+
Which leads to another new fitness craze: short and quick. Since recent studies show it’s okay to take exercise in several small doses, tapes such as the 20-minute quick Callanetics: Hips and Behind and Quick Callanetics: Stomach (1991) are hot (both A-). Kathy Smith’s Instant Workout (1991), with three 20-minute segments — aerobics, toning, and stretching — let you do one or all. B The fact is, you need all three, although you could alternate aerobics and toning on different days.
Not surprisingly, Cher’s first exercise video, Cherfitness (1991), hit high on the best-seller list very quickly. Savvily self-effacing, the performer doesn’t set herself up an expert; instead she uses her own personal trainer to lead this superb aerobics and toning tape. Following it probably won’t give you Cher’s enviable body, but as she says, the effort counts. A-
In fact, getting some of us off our duffs and into exercise of any kind is an accomplishment. That’s one reason Richard Simmons Sweatin’ to the Oldies (1990) has been on the charts continuously for the past year. All that infectious ’50s and ’60s music makes you want to get down and dance. Yeah, he’s absurdly goofy — Liberace in a tank top. But in Simmons’ world, no one is too old or too fat to start shaping up: an irresistible message of hope in a field where hope is the best selling point. C+