CORVALLIS, Ore., Jan. 8 (UPI) -- Language and imagery in fitness DVDs thought to motivate viewers may actually be harmful for users, according to a study by Oregon State University.
Tough love statements to users, as well as "hyper-sexualized and unrealistic body images," can reduce the effectiveness of workouts and could cause psychological harm, researchers at the university said.
Researchers found many of the instructors have little to no credentials in fitness instruction, and question the safety and efficacy of some exercises and fitness techniques used in the DVDs.
"We don't think the videos are very psychologically safe," said Dr. Brad Cardinal, a professor of kinesiology at Oregon State University, in a press release. "There are also questions about some of the exercises, which could lead to injuries and pose a real danger to the user."
Researchers in the study, published in the Sociology of Sport Journal, gathered 10 commercially available, contemporary, single-instructor exercise DVDs, analyzing them for instructor and model characteristics, emergent relationship patterns, and motivational content of the primary instructor.
Most instructors and models in the videos were female, white, thin and wearing revealing clothing, which Cardinal said sends subtle messages about what "fit" people should look like -- also perpetuating objectification of women and putting appearance ahead of fitness.
Of all statements made during the DVDs, 26.9 percent were motivational statements, however one in seven of those statements were negative, including lines like "say hello to your sexy six-pack," "you better be sweating," and "you should be dying right now," in addition to taunting viewers just watching or not working "hard enough."
Cardinal said DVDs often are people's first foray into improving their physical fitness -- especially if they are uncomfortable working out in public environments such as gyms -- making a positive, realistic outlook important. Negativity, either in words or imagery, may diminish people's desire to keep working out, he said.
"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," Cardinal said. "If the experience is not positive, the likelihood the person is going to continue with an exercise program diminishes."