Using Your Computer to Get in Shape - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Using Your Computer to Get in Shape

By Daisy Whitney

So you don’t want to work out a gym, because it’s inconvenient, takes too much time and can be a scene. But, working out at home is daunting because you don’t know how to start or what equipment to buy.

Now, there’s a third choice. The growth of broadband Internet has made it possible to take fitness classes online. You get the comfort and convenience of working out at home on your schedule combined with the benefits of instruction and guidance.

Online fitness is a nascent but growing area of the fitness business. A number of web sites, like,, and offer online classes, while other web destinations offer virtual personal trainers to help you learn how to do different exercises properly. Here’s a quick overview of what you need to know to become an online exerciser... so turn off your screen saver, turn up the volume, and pull out an exercise mat.

What They Offer

The is the granddaddy of online workouts. The site boasts nearly 50 different yoga practices, or workouts, at any given time. They range in length from 20 minutes to an hour and the site even includes shorter workouts that you do at the desk – three to ten minutes. Membership is only $10 a month, says Steve Taylor, founder of the online yoga practice.

Online classes have several advantages and the most obvious one is convenience, Taylor says. “You take it on your time, anytime you want,” he says. What’s more, some people avoid going to in-person classes because they might be intimidated by the other students. “Some people feel self-conscious and don’t want to go to a class with a bunch of hard bodies who are whipping out major yoga moves. This offers an alternative,” he says.

But online classes have a glaring drawback. They lack the back and forth with the  instructor. To offset the repartee, most sites contain forums, message boards and other venues to ask questions. bills itself as an online gym. Tobin Shaeffer is the president of the site and says it offers about five online classes as well as individual personal training sessions. Those are also conducted online and work best when both the trainer and the individual have a web cam, creating a remote training session conducted via video conference. “You don’t have to have a trainer come to your house, or if you’re not a member of a gym, you can still get personalized training,” he says.

The classes run from 30 minutes to an hour and are currently available for free. offers about 30 classes currently and plans to add another 40 within the next few months. “You can take classes with some of the experts that have been doing this for years,” says Dr. Howard Sichel, who heads the web site.

The key to online classes is self-motivation. “You have to be more disciplined,” he says.

Drawbacks of Online Workouts

While convenience is a big advantage with an online class, you may miss out on the connection, contact and accountability that an in-person class brings, says Richard Cotton, a spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise and the chief exercise physiologist for Still, if you try out an online class, be sure to check out the instructor’s qualifications, he says.

Outdoor fitness classes, by contrast, can add endless variety to a workout, and the group dynamic brings camaraderie and motivation, says Deborah Strougo, director of marketing with RoadFit, which runs group outdoor fitness classes. “Once you learn how to ‘see’ things in the natural environment and use them as gym props -- street curbs, benches, hills, stairs, etc. -- you have the tools to workout anywhere- especially when traveling,” she says.

Online Personalized Training

In addition to classes, you can also find online visual guidance on how to do different exercises. offers a virtual trainer in its fitness area that shows an animation and a complete description of a host of exercises for each muscle group. You can do the exercises at home, or print out the instructions and take them to the gym. Fitness-only members pay $2 per week, while fitness and diet members pay $23.92 per month. offers free interactive workouts with celebrity trainer Gunnar Peterson at He demonstrates different moves that you can pick and choose to tailor into a workout.

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