VIDEO / Jerk that body: The exercise gurus release their New Year body-beautiful programmes. Introduced by your personal trainer Serena Mackesy

There are few experiences more damaging to one's wellbeing than watching a dozen exercise videos in a row. Beautiful People beseeching you to look as they do while performing a string of sit-ups without breaking out under the arms is enough to send anyone screaming for the sweetshop.

As you watch, it's hard to ignore the creeping conviction that exercise drives you mad. Angela Lansbury has been exercising for years and, judging by Positive Moves, she headed for the stratosphere while watching her mother capering about with the League of Health and Beauty. 'I guess those words have remained in my mind ever since; Health (pause) and Beauty.'

Although the doughty Angela says things like 'to me, this stretch is sooo sad-isfying', she can't hold a candle to La Toya Jackson, whose intro to Step Up Work Out is worthy of her brother. La Toya sexes up exercise in that unique Jackson fashion, jerking her shoulders and keeping her head still, something personal trainer Gay Gasper, 'one of the best steppers in the country', refers to as 'real funky'.

One thing the exercise gurus are keen to convey is the benefits of exercise to the brain: not only will you have a flat tummy, you will enjoy Proust. Whatever else exercise has done for her, it hasn't improved the diction of the Duchess of York, who provides the foreword for Josh Salzmann's Bodyfit. Josh, a hairy sort of bloke, wears shell-suits and maintains constant eye contact; exhausting in itself. His wife, a Midwich Cuckoo in adulthood, informs you that she had a baby six months ago. No one cracks a smile, not even the po-faced Fergie. You can bet that mealtimes are fun round at the Salzmanns. 'Pass the salt, dear.' 'I think you should consider fluid retention before you step up your sodium intake, honey.'

Of all the muscle punishers releasing themselves on cassette this season, the only ones you would really want at your dinner table are Carole Caplin, the good-humoured progenitrix of Holistix, who avoids the customary high moral tone, and Jaclyn Smith, who always had a certain cool that Charlie's other Angels lacked. Both address their audience almost intelligently and neither insults you with the 'Whoo] Let me hear it at home]' skirling that seems to be the norm.

The programme that offers the most hope is Judith Wills and Gill Bidwell's Size 12 in 21 Days. Gill and Judith have either hypnotised or blackmailed a pair of cheerful size 16s into donning leotards and taking up some deeply unflattering poses; and the 21-day difference is marked. Also included is a diet booklet; presumably it's assumed that you're already living on carrots.

Other freebies available include a rubber band with handles called the XERTUBE, which comes with Judi Sheppard Missett's Jazzercise Circuit Training. This is a great help in working up sufficient tension to keep a fixed grin plastered to your face. Leslie 'Hi everybody' Sansome's Weight Loss Walk and Firm Off Weight have 28-page booklets that let you plan your 'great low-calorie recipes]' while marching around the living room. Nothing is free with Tony Little's Target Training but there are three volumes, so you can spend two hours a day with one of those musclebound, ponytailed jocks who cause maternal palpitations on prom nights all over America.

And then there are the ones your friends will want to borrow: The Marky Mark Workout and Shape Your Body with Cindy Crawford. Sulky Marky made a lot of pink dollars for Calvin Klein by lounging around in his keks, and there's obviously some exploitation in the lad yet. Cindy seems happy to let us look between her swinging thighs on the beach, in a warehouse and on a city rooftop. All very scenic, but if you think you can get to look like Cindy without genetic engineering you need your head examining, not your body.

The least depressing of these opuses is, in order, Holistix (because Carole Caplin seems likeable and the exercises weren't invented by the Gestapo), Size 12 in 21 Days (for much the same reasons) and Denise Austin's All New Super Stomachs because she's only after one bit of you. But it you want some enjoyable cardiovascular exercise, buy a copy of The Last of the Mohicans, in which Daniel Day Lewis takes his shirt off and runs uphill a lot. Now that'll get the blood pumping.

(Photograph omitted)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent