Relax, don't do it. Exercise with me and shed no tears

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The Independent Online
PERHAPS the most terrifying experience I underwent in Canada recently was being exposed to what I took to be a rack of horror videos. They all featured threatening women on the front, wearing combat underwear and doing violent things to people just off-screen.

One of these videos featured a particularly muscular woman who looked as if she was just about to sit on the viewer and squash him to death. I can still remember its title, because it was so menacingly incomprehensible: Buns of Steel.

'What is a bun?' I asked

my sister-in-law Belinda, that evening. She looked at me oddly. I described what I had seen. Enlightenment dawned.

'Ah, I'm with you. In Canada 'bun' also means 'buttock'. Especially female buttock.'

Enlightenment dawned further. These weren't horror movies, they were exercise videos, designed for small, weak people to buy and take home under the illusion that they would turn them into big, strong people like the woman on the front.

Ever since then I have noticed that shops everywhere, even in this country, are crammed with exercise videos, and this has naturally raised the question: is there some way in which you and I can cash in on this fact? More specifically, is there some way in which I can cash in?

Quite honestly, I thought all this exercise mania had gone away with the end of the aerobics craze. Do you remember the aerobics craze? This was when Jane Fonda made the discovery that thousands of people who might be far too embarrassed to go to exercise classes and show off their shameful bodies to other people, would be prepared to pay good money for a video that they could take home and gyrate in front of, completely unobserved. It produced a generation of women with leotards and badly pulled muscles. Then it faded away.

Now it is back again, and a whole new generation is about to get into tights and do themselves an injury. So what we need to break into this market is a video with a star on the front. Judging from Buns of Steel, it should also be specialised. I am not sure why anyone should want to have buttocks as hard as iron, unless they are a professional cyclist or an Italian secretary who gets pinched a lot.

But the makers of Buns of Steel must have done their research and uncovered a longing for hard buttocks and I respect that. In fact, now I come to think of it, I once saw a book in a New York bookshop called Get Rid of That Double Chin in Two Weeks, which is, perhaps, even more specialised than Buns of Steel.

(The double-chin book described a series of exercises that you could do to delay the onset of multiple neck. I tried a few of them in the shop and I seem to remember that they all made you look like Stan Laurel or the poor girl in Edvard Munch's picture, The Scream. Not that I have a double chin. Especially when I point my chin upwards. Then I have no signs of a double chin at all. Good Lord, no, I was just trying it out, that's all. Research.)

And I am glad I did now, because the memory of how restful those double-chin exercises were (no leotard] no showering afterwards]) has given me an idea for the video that might make my fortune. It will be called Go on, Relax] It's Good For you] It will have a picture on the front of some famous star who has never been publicly associated with strenuous exercise in their life - Leo McKern perhaps, or Jo Brand. It will detail 10 specific exercises that they wouldn't dream of doing, and which you don't have to do either.

Most of the video will be devoted to Leo McKern and Jo Brand - or whichever celebrity I can persuade to do the job cheaply - reminiscing gently about people they have known, thus inducing a beneficial trance-like torpor in the watcher. But it will be interspersed with footage of well- known sports injuries - runners pulling up with agonising torn hamstrings, rugby and football players limping off the field - to ram home the message that exercise, in moderation, is still very bad for you.

Let me know if you might be interested in buying a copy. Just write in to me and say: 'I wish

to place an order for your forthcoming video, Buns of Cotton Wool.'