How fit are those celeb exercise videos? An authority puts them to the mat.

By Lois Alter Mark
Updated February 04, 1994 at 05:00 AM EST

What hath Fonda wrought? Every celeb, onetime star, or in-shape wannabe now seems to have an exercise video on the market. But does a keen interest in the fame game really qualify old actresses, young models, and everybody imaginable in between to tell you what to do with your body? To find out, we asked an authority on health and fitness — Susan B. Johnson, Ed.D., director of continuing education at the Cooper Institute for Aerobics Research in Dallas — to evaluate a batch of recent ”celebercise” tapes. Here’s what we found.

DIXIE CARTER’S UNWORKOUT (MCA/Universal) Exercise approach: Traditional yoga. Target: Middle-aged women (like Carter) looking for a nonstressful way to shape up. Is it safe? This ”unworkout” is really unsafe. It uses too many positions that are risky to the back and neck, including the ”yoga plow” that got the medical community riled at an early Jane Fonda video. How effective? The breathing and relaxation techniques are useful, but the rest of the video may put you right out of commission. F

ZSA ZSA GABOR: ”IT’S SIMPLE, DARLING” (Best) Exercise approach: A little muscle toning, a lot of talking. Target: The sedentary. Anyone who exercises at all will become deconditioned following this simply silly ”workout.” Is it safe? Sure, because Gabor doesn’t do very much. However, she sits on her knees at one point, which can be dangerous. How effective? If she gets some old spuds off the couch, she will have accomplished something, but the number of repetitions and the amount of resistance she uses are not enough to spur any real physical improvement. C-

CINDY CRAWFORD: THE NEXT CHALLENGE WORKOUT (GoodTimes) Exercise approach: A challenging total-body workout, combining aerobic conditioning, strength training, toning, and stretching. Target: Strictly men and women who are already in good shape; no wusses allowed. Is it safe? Several exercises are risky to the back: Avoid the bent-over-rowing position. Also, most people in moderate physical condition shouldn’t try all the high-impact moves featured here. How effective? This vigorous workout, in which style and substance meet, will improve aerobic capacity and sculpt muscles. (It’s obviously worked for Crawford.) B

MARLA MAPLES: JOURNEY TO FITNESS (Vestron) Exercise approach: Muscle toning through calisthenics. Target: Women at all fitness levels. Maples provides specific guidelines for beginner, intermediate, and advanced exercisers. Is it safe? The workout earns high marks for safety, except for one brief segment in which Maples sits on her heels. Don’t do this; it can hurt your knees. How effective? A good selection of exercises makes this a useful routine for sculpting and toning muscles, but because it’s nonaerobic, your heart and lungs won’t receive any of the benefits. (Tip: To increase flexibility, hold the stretches longer than Maples does. She only holds them for two to five seconds, but anything less than 10 to 20 seconds is not effective.) A