It's February, it's cold and you're comfort eating. You want to shed those extra pounds that have been lurking since Christmas, but can't be bothered to go to the gym. So, is a celebrity fitness DVD practised in the comfort of your living room the answer? For one thing, while one pilates session could leave you £30 out of pocket, you can buy a lifetime of video exercise routines for less than £20.
But, last week, experts warned that people risked injuring themselves by exercising incorrectly or over-enthusiastically at home. Home exercise is often undertaken by people who are inexperienced and unfit, and don't warm up properly before a session, leaving themselves vulnerable to pulled muscles and dizzy spells.
So could these living-room workouts be doing you more harm than good? Figures show that 14,000 people a year are treated in hospital following an exercise session at home. Meanwhile, experts say that some celebrity workouts are worse than useless. "People don't think they'll hurt themselves," says Sammy Margo, a chartered physiotherapist. "But without guidance or proper knowledge, celebrity fitness videos have the potential to be dangerous. In the hands of people who are unfit, they can pose a real hazard. Exercise should be about looking and feeling good about yourself, but lots of people do it thinking they will look like the celebrity they are following. They are so focused on looking like the celebrity that they don't even think about whether or not [that person] is properly qualified."
As well as unqualified celebrities, a further problem is that most videos do not carry intensity ratings and buyers often end up with a video that isn't aimed at their fitness level. Robin Gargrave, the director of YMCA Fitness Industry Training, explains: "There is often no information on the packaging to help the buyer decide whether the content is appropriate to their needs, ability or level of fitness - and, unlike you would find in a gym, there is no screening process."
The ability to stop and pause videos is also seen by some experts as dangerous. Cliff Collins, the registrar of the Register of Exercise Professionals, warns: "Missing the beginning of the video or stopping before you reach the end will not improve your fitness and can be very hazardous. It is crucial to follow the whole programme, including warm-ups, if you are to exercise safely and efficiently."
Jade's All New Dance Workout £17.99
A moderately intense dance video combining nightclub dance moves with lots of hip-wriggling exercises. Jade instructs you through a warm-up, five separate dances and a cool-down.
TARGET AUDIENCE Amateur fitness fans, Jade fans.
HOW GOOD IS IT? This is great for kids to watch and copy, and excellent if you want to have a bit of fun, or enjoy watching Jade. Sammy Margo says: "Jade is not a dance teacher and the video lacks guidance about corrections, technique, and how you should be doing it. She doesn't engage with the audience. It doesn't tell you what it's targeting, or why the exercises are beneficial. It is quite an easy video but doesn't include any options or modifications."
LIKELIHOOD OF INJURY Moderate to high. No corrections or guidance, and some movements could cause injury.
Walk Off The Pounds with Lorraine Kelly £15.99
Walking and walking-type exercises of low to moderate intensity. Includes warm-up, power aerobics, power strength, pilates and strength.
TARGET AUDIENCE Suitable for anyone hoping to get fit.
HOW GOOD IS IT? Lorraine Kelly is led by the personal trainer Jane Wake. Full of guidance, corrections and variations, with lots of advice. Sammy Margo says: "It's a fantastic video for fat-burning, which, if you want to lose weight is what you need to do. There are lots of tips and lots of 'little and often', so if you have just had a baby it's great - you can grab a bit of exercise here and there. A lot of thought has gone into it." Good, easy exercises that are clearly communicated. This is geared towards people with very busy lives, and you can take the tips away with you.
LIKELIHOOD OF INJURY Very low if you follow the instructions.
Ultimate Challenge - Ultimate Results £17.99
A high-intensity aerobics class that claims to be suitable for all fitness levels, but is only for the fit. In a well-structured workout, an unnamed personal trainer takes a class, with Nell McAndrew at the front of it, giving clear instructions. 10 minute warm-up, 40-minute workout, followed by a floor workout.
TARGET AUDIENCE Serious work-outers.
HOW GOOD IS IT? If you are unfit you're in trouble because this is a demanding workout. But if you are fit it is a great, fun video to do. It is not suitable for all fitness levels, but at least it has a professional involved, and McAndrew is not pretending to be something that she's not. However, if you want to lose weight you need to work at a lower, more fat-burning level. Although there is a lot of clear instruction, the personal trainer does not correct the class. There are no options or variations available.
LIKELIHOOD OF INJURY High if you are unfit.
Tone and Tease £15.99
"Tone your body and entice a man", is the promise made on the cover. Abi herself instructs the class, beginning with a warm-up, then moving on to the posture and "hot glamour" after-dark section, Japanese section and finally the cool-down.
TARGET AUDIENCE Desperate housewives.
HOW GOOD IS IT? This is definitely low intensity, with exercises involving sticking out your bottom, sexy walking and posture and striptease manoeuvres. Could be good for improving self-confidence.
LIKELIHOOD OF INJURY How often do you injure yourself doing a sexy walk?
Lasting Results £14.99
Three self-contained workouts for moderate fitness levels: one for 30 minutes, one for 25 minutes and one for 10 minutes. The video covers toning, body-conditioning, small weights and squats.
TARGET AUDIENCE Coronation Street fans
HOW GOOD IS IT? The class is taken by Beverley herself. Some things are done right, some things are done wrong, but she does correct people and variations are offered. Sammy Margo says: "Beverley's personality appeal may be a matter of personal taste."
LIKELIHOOD OF INJURY This one is quite safe.
Power of 3 £17.99
Fat-burning aerobic exercise is combined with toning and advice on general health. There's an introduction, warm-up, legs and bum section, upper body section, abdominal section, and cool-down section. Also sections on clothes and healthy eating.
TARGET AUDIENCE Will suit anyone interesting in improving their fitness.
HOW GOOD IS IT? Davina introduces the sections but leaves instruction to an expert couple, Jackie and Mark Wren. Sammy Margo says: "This is an authentic, realistic, achievable, encouraging and genuine approach. The sections on exercise, clothing and food make this a good, well-rounded video. The great thing is that because there are three people in the class, they present varied exercise levels. Very well instructed, and lots of corrections."
LIKELIHOOD OF INJURY Low. This is very safe due to clear instructions.