Think twice before doing a workout DVD — they might be bad for your body image

Exercise videos have been around for decades, but very little about their impact on body image and body weight has been studied — until now.

A new study from Oregon State University found that despite their convenience and anxiety-reducing qualities, workout DVDs may be more harmful than good to the people who use them. In fact, the study linked workout DVDs with negative body image.

According to the study, repeated exposure to the images commonly found in fitness films — thin, white women with impossibly slim figures — poses serious threat to the psyche of the people who use DVDs to workout, many of whom are overweight or obese and chose the privacy of their own home over the gym.

The study also found that one out of every seven “motivational” phrases used in these DVDs — many of them some version or another of “tough love” — were actually demotivating and more likely to make users feel bad about themselves or their ability to keep up with the trainer.

“These findings raise concerns about the value of exercise DVDs in helping people develop and commit to a workout program,” said Brad Cardinal, a kinesiology professor at OSU and expert in physical activity. “There are a lot of exaggerated claims through the imagery and language of ‘do this and you’ll look like me.’”

According to Dr. Cardinal, the $250 million exercise video industry, which is largely unregulated, has been built on the backs of people who are beginners when it comes to exercise and who are already vulnerable. What they need more than anything is for exercise to be a positive experience, not a degrading one.

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

So, what should consumers do? First, beware of the messages found on these DVDs. Make sure they’re uplifting and inspiring. And secondly, be realistic and remember that everybody is different; there is no one-size-fits-all solution to fitness.

As Dr. Cardinal says, “Don’t expect to get the same results as what you see on the screen or compare yourself to others.”

We’d say, that’s some pretty sound advice

(Image via Amazon/Lionsgate.)

Filed Under