Archive for January 29th, 2011

Online Exercise

Saturday, January 29, 2011 // Uncategorized

In order to be effective, exercise must be convenient.  The more impediments there are to exercise, the less likely it is to happen.  The following is a review of online sites that allow you to download your own exercise class.  This allows more variety that exercise DVD’s which may become boring with repeated use.

Feel the Burn (Not the Shame) of a Workout Class

  • Finding it tough to squeeze your regular exercise class into your busy life? A number of websites offer to bring the group exercise class experience to your living room, but without the scheduling conflicts.

We tested four such sites, which offer everything from live, streaming-video cardio courses to downloadable yoga meditation classes. Users log on to the website, choose an exercise routine and watch them on their computer. Classes vary in length from five to 90 minutes, and some sites let users track their progress. Participants typically pay a monthly fee for unlimited use.


Carl Wiens



Jennifer Salas, founder of Demand Fitness in Austin, Texas, says some customers prefer to work out at home. “There are so many people who don’t like the meat-market feel [of a gym] or the intimidation of not being fit and having to work out in front of others who are very fit,” she says.

We sampled several classes for each site visited, including VirtualGym TV and Demand Fitness. To get started, we disabled our screen-saver so our computer wouldn’t go into sleep mode in the middle of the session. We had to wait for a live class to start on one site,, but the other classes let us exercise right away.

The VirtualGym site offers several hundred courses via download. Several new courses are streamed live each day, but most are available for download. An intermediate cardio kickboxing course we downloaded was challenging, and we enjoyed the level of instruction. Our instructor was lively and even made a few jokes throughout the 45-minute session. At times, it was tough to keep up. “The instructors are encouraged to replicate exactly what they do in real life,” says Richard Davis, founder of U.K.-based VirtualGym TV Ltd.

On a day we didn’t set aside time to work out, we were able to quickly download a 30-minute “Six-Pack Workout” class. The class was upbeat and left our abs sore. VirtualGym had the most diverse offerings, with anything from stability-ball training, to aerobics and strengthening classes. The courses were organized chronologically, so it was difficult to search the archives for specific types of classes.

Yoga Learning Center LLC, an online yoga studio based in Maui, Hawaii, offers audio and video yoga classes. The site offered the fewest classes, but with more than 60 routines, there was still plenty to choose from. The site provided detailed descriptions about each class, and there was no need to wait for classes to download, just hit play.

We tried a 75-minute Kundalini yoga class and several five-minute stretch routines for desk slaves. Instructors were clear, and we liked the flow of each class. But we missed having an instructor in the same room who could help with complicated poses. We had to stop a few complicated yoga poses to look back at our computer screen.

Demand Fitness offers a library of about 300 classes and is constantly adding new ones. Categories include anything from upper-body and fitness dance training to a series targeted at business travelers with short routines that require only a desk chair. When browsing classes, we were able to see what other users had to say about them. The quality of the classes was good, and we enjoyed both a quick arm workout and the lower-body road warrior workout. Each time, we completed a separate warm-up routine.

The courses flowed together well, and it was easy to coordinate. Since many classes are targeted to specific muscle groups, we were encouraged by instructors to mix and match routines to tailor the workout to our needs. The site also made it simple to sneak in a session when we were short on time.

Navigating between the site’s features was a bit difficult, and the interface was cluttered. But we liked a tracking tool, which allows users to see how much time was spent exercising each month.

Physiic LLC offers the closest experience to being in an actual exercise class. It has live courses offered via webcam and allows participants to communicate with instructors in real time.

The site offers about 20 full- and limited-interaction classes per weekday and fewer classes on weekends. Classes are live at exercise studios around the country and equipped with webcams for Physiic users. During a fully interactive 90-minute yoga course, the instructor watched our movement via webcam and called out to us about specific poses (we were encouraged to ask questions via a chat textbox). And we liked the option to work out with friends far away and view them doing the same course, but it was tough to plan.

Our limited-interaction yoga flow Physiic class was taught as a live class, and Physiic users could follow along via webcam but could not get feedback form the instructor. Web quality made it difficult to clearly see others in the class, and the audio disappeared toward the end. (A spokesman says we needed to restart the class.)

Upcoming courses were listed on the site, where we could register for courses. When we overslept and missed an early-morning meditation class, we emailed customer service and received a refund. We saw one course we’d planned to take disappear off the menu before we could register. A spokesman says courses that don’t have any registrants prior to start time may be canceled.

Overall, the online classes were less boring than watching an exercise DVD and are a great option for those days when you can’t get to the gym. Despite some technical glitches, instructor quality was good and classes were easy to follow. One problem: With no one else in the room with you exercising, it was tempting to plop back on the living-room couch.

Living-Room Instructors

Here’s how four sites that offer group exercise classes via the Web compare with each other:

WEBSITE MONTHLY COST CLASS GENRES COMMENT $5 to $12 per class Live classes in yoga, Pilates, strength training, aerobics Sometimes tough to see poses via webcam; teachers were good. Live broadcast classes, various, conveniently scheduled, few weekend options. $8 Kickboxing, aerobics, dance, circuit training New courses offered each week. Live broadcast, streaming video and downloadable courses; good quality. $15 Strength training, aerobics, martial arts and many others Good-quality videos, can be paired for more tailored workouts. Additional fitness tools provided, classes could be previewed. $8 Video, audio-only classes, yoga and Pilates Quality instructors, video resolution was good. Easy to use, different yoga offerings, various skill levels.

Write to Alina Dizik at [email protected]


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