Girl Exercise, Watching TVYes, something is better than nothing but, in the quest to get and stay fit the truth is not all exercise is equal. A study published by the Sociology of Sport Journal found that when you are ready to get moving it may be best to skip the DVD’s and head for the gym. Here’s why:

Using DVD’s at home may increase the risk of injury

The most popular DVD’s aimed at beginners actually encourage users to push beyond reasonable limits. Doing too much, too soon is a primary cause of exercise injuries. There are other problems with ramping up too quickly. Beginners generally need time and instruction before proper exercise form becomes second nature. Poor form often impedes progress and leads to injury. Also, overdoing a new exercise routine can lead to pain and injury that derails your exercise plan. Instead of sticking with it you are sitting on the couch too sore to get moving.

Working with a trainer at the gym instead can help you focus on form so that you are working the intended muscles without undue strain. Instructors at the gym can also help you adapt exercise to your current fitness level so you make progress without sidelining pain.

Many DVD’s encourage unrealistic expectations

Scan the covers of most fitness DVD’s. Chances are the images you see will be of young, thin women with lithe, athletic bodies. Go a bit further and listen to these digital instructors. You may come away believing only certain body types are ideal and worth striving for. This can leave you feeling inadequate and more likely to throw in the towel. The reality is everyone will not have buns of steel or six-pack abs. Real bodies come in all shapes and sizes.

When you go to the gym you have the opportunity to work with gym staff on realistic goals and an individualized plan to meet them. For example, maybe you won’t have six-pack abs but you will be able to stop taking medication for high-blood pressure or high cholesterol. Your trainer can help you keep track of your individual progress. Knowing how far you have come rather than how far away from the ideal presented in the DVD can help you stay encouraged and on track.

It takes a village

Personal trainerAnother big benefit of going to the gym is you get all of the sweat and none of the polish. Above all DVD’s are designed to entertain. They are often led by uncredentialed instructors and focus more on visual appeal. In other words, the videos are usually nice to look at but the moves are hard for mere mortals to duplicate safely in their own homes. Exercise is more fun when you add to the power of one. Head to the gym where the instructor can provide individual guidance that helps modify moves for your current fitness level. The instructor should use language that feels encouraging and helps you feel included regardless of how well you are keeping up, especially if you are a beginner. At the gym, you’ll also get the added  benefit of a feeling of camaraderie and fun with your gym compatriots. Accountability is another bonus. When you know your gym friends will miss you, you are more likely to show up.

In a pinch…watch the DVD first and pay attention to the messages you hear. Notice how those messages make you feel. After all if you aren’t motivated you are less likely to stick Demotivating language makes you less likely to value your own progress or accomplishments because you are focused on the bodies and language in the DVD instead of other benefits of exercise such as improved insulin resistance, more energy.

Ask your trainer for DVD recommendations that can build on the good work you are doing in the gym. After all, your trainer isn’t there for entertainment – he or she is your partner in health and wants to see you succeed.