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How To Choose the Perfect Exercise Video

You've moved the coffee table and cleared some space in front of the TV. You've donned your workout clothing and the water bottle is close by. But when you press "play" on the VCR, your exercise video is nothing like you expected — it's too hard...or too easy.

How do you find the perfect video without wasting money trying them out? Here are a few pointers, courtesy of Shannon Entin, publisher of FitnessLink (

Know your own fitness level. Many exercisers think they are beginners and are cautious about picking up a video that is for "intermediate to advanced" levels. Realize that it's OK to challenge yourself, Entin said. If the workout gets too tough, march in place until you feel ready to join in with the video again. Tackling a challenging workout is great for improving your fitness level and self-esteem.

Talk to others. One way to find a good video is to talk to others who share your fitness level and goal. The Internet and on-line services are full of fitness Web sites, mailing lists and bulletin boards where you can ask others about their favorite videos.

Choose the right length and style for your needs. Don't purchase a video because the description on the back sounds exciting. Convenience and motivation are the most important factors in sticking with an exercise program. Choose a video that is the right length for your desired workout, and be sure the video has an instructor, a setting and music that will motivate you.

Get a catalog with reviews. Collage Video's "Complete Guide to Exercise Videos" is a good resource — their reviewers actually do the workouts, Entin noted. You can get a free catalog by calling (800) 433-6769.

Visit your local video store. For a few dollars, you can rent a video and give it a test drive before making the decision to purchase it. Or, you can rent a new video each week to keep your routine new and exciting.

Go for variety! You'll improve your fitness level immensely by cross-training — doing a variety of workouts that challenge different body parts. Try a video on boxing, yoga or jump-roping to add spice to your fitness regimen. A new workout always gives you renewed inspiration.

Always remember: be sure to contact your physician before beginning any fitness program.

© 2001 Health Resources Publishing