- The Washington Times - Friday, January 2, 2009

It’s the very beginning of the year, and you know what that means - New Year’s resolutions. About half of Americans make them, and losing weight and getting in shape tend to top the list.

In this economy, though, a pricey gym membership and personal trainer might be out of the question. So here are a number of recent and upcoming DVD releases that aim to help you shed the pounds in your own home - all for a list price of less than $20.

Crunch: Latin Rhythms and Crunch: Yoga Body Sculpt (Anchor Bay, $14.98 each) - The Crunch series, a spinoff from the hip gyms of the same name, have been around for years. They’re always a safe bet, particularly for beginners.

Bethany Lyons leads “Yoga Body Sculpt.” This is a nice program for those just starting to exercise and those who want a little more than relaxation and flexibility training with their yoga. This program aims to help tone your body as well, concentrating on the legs and stomach. The 40-minute workout includes a good stretch segment at the end.

“Latin Rhythms” is led by Jennifer Galardi and includes 36 minutes of low-impact aerobics with a Latin vibe. The high-energy cast does a series of moves taken from dances from the mambo to the merengue. Miss Galardi is a fun instructor, at one point advising, “Even if it’s weird on you, just give me attitude.”

Dance Off the Inches: Dance It Off Ballroom (Starz/Anchor Bay, $14.98) - The “Dance Off the Inches” series has already released titles focusing on, but not limited to, hip-hop, belly dancing and salsa. ABC’s hit show “Dancing With the Stars” has reignited interest in ballroom dancing, and so the fitness series’ latest entry gives the people what they want. Instructor Kristina Milova is a real ballroom-dancing professional, and it shows. She takes viewers through the cha-cha, samba and the jive in this 40-minute workout. An 18-minute tutorial on the steps is also included. The music isn’t as good as that in “Crunch: Latin Rhythms,” but Miss Milova shows you steps you’ll really be able to take out of the workout room and onto the dance floor. The next “Dance Off the Inches” release, scheduled for next month, might not have such wide appeal - it’s a country line-dance workout.

Weight Loss: Cardio Sculpt and Weight Loss: Pilates (Acacia, $14.99 each) - You need to change both your diet and your exercise routine to lose weight effectively. A couple of companies are making it easier by including tips on both in their DVDs. Acacia, for example, has launched its new series “Weight Loss” in an effort to give people information on both aspects of a healthy lifestyle.

Violet Zaki’s encouraging Australian voice makes doing the tough “Cardio Sculpt” a little easier. The DVD has two 20-minute workouts, both incorporating cardio and strength training alternating in high-intensity intervals. The cardio is also high-impact, but Miss Zaki shows you how to modify if you need to. There’s also an eight-minute ab routine.

“Pilates” is a pretty innovative DVD, with instructor Kristin McGee combining traditional Pilates floor exercises with cardio intervals. It makes for two quite effective 20-minute workouts. This DVD also includes a five-minute ab workout. While most DVD workouts feature the instructor fronting a small group of exercisers, “Pilates” has just Miss McGee and a very beautiful set adorned with red brick, green plants and white candles.

Both “Weight Loss” DVDs have a bonus section with exercises you can do throughout the day to keep yourself from being sedentary outside the workout room. They also aim to get diet into the mix; each has its own 16-page booklet with tips and recipes from the very good Cooking Light magazine.

Results: 10 Days to a Better Body and Results: Boost Your Metabolism (Starz/Anchor Bay, $14.98 each) - The “Results” series also combines diet and exercise into a single plan and, without background exercisers, makes you feel as if you’re working out one-on-one with a trainer.

“10 Days to a Better Body” is led by Cindy Whitmarsh, who has a background in both fitness and nutrition. The DVD has two half-hour interval workouts that alternate cardio and muscle work in one-minute segments. (You can do anything for a minute, right?) One workout focuses on the lower body and abs, while the other works on the upper body and abs. The included program suggests you do these every day, alternating the workouts, and the meal plan offers a 10-day menu of meals and snacks. Studies show people with plans are more likely to accomplish their goals, so a DVD like this gets high marks.

“Boost Your Metabolism” is a single 52-minute workout led by Tracey Staehle that also focuses on cardio and toning intervals. After a half-hour of those, you do 12 minutes of toning on the ground. This looks like a solid workout that should work for the more advanced exerciser.

Kathy Smith: Total Body Lift and Kathy Smith: Lift Weights to Lose Weight (Lions Gate, $14.98 each) - Kathy Smith has been in the industry longer than just about anyone except Jane Fonda. She’s still working hard, even at age 57(!). “Total Body Lift” has four 15-minute programs, each focusing on toning a different area: upper body, legs, butt and stomach. Miss Smith uses every type of exercise in these segments, from classic moves such as push-ups to Pilates classics such as the Hundred.

“Lift Weights to Lose Weight” is a great bargain - you get two discs for less than $15. This isn’t a new DVD, but a rerelease of two programs Miss Smith originally put out in 1998 and 2003. There are seven workouts here, four dumbbell segments (two each for upper and lower body), two abs segments and a stability-ball workout. The best thing about this program is you can decide whether to use light weights and do lots of reps or use heavy weights and do fewer reps.

Denise Austin: Best Belly Fat-Blasters (Lions Gate, $14.98) - You don’t need a fancy as-seen-on-TV contraption to work your abs. Longtime fitness pro Denise Austin gives you seven different tummy toners on this disc, all timed from 10 minutes to 15 minutes long. These are culled from her previous DVDs and have a nice mix of styles to keep you from getting bored. Besides the typical floor work, there are segments using yoga and Pilates, too.

The Best of Tamilee: Best Thighs, Best Abs, Best Cardio - (MagicPlay, $19.95) No one who has watched television over the past few decades that hasn’t seen a “Buns of Steel” ad. The star of that series, Tamilee Webb, is back with three 15-minute workouts. That’s a bit short for the cardio core workout, but it could work for thighs and abs. There’s also a 15-minute yoga workout by Stacy McCarthy.

Kelly Jane Torrance

Towelhead (Warner, $27.98) - Lambasted by the Council on American-Islamic Relations for daring to release a movie with the name “Towelhead,” Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. promised to include a discussion about race on the DVD release. The “discussion” is an encomium to PC sentiment, including whoppers like this one: “Hollywood has always liked villains … there is no debate that Arabs and Muslims continue to be the favorite villains over the last couple of decades.”

This is patently absurd. Hollywood studios have, in fact, been incredibly reticent to portray Muslim terrorism as a problem; “The Kingdom” and “Traitor” are the only feature films to portray radical Islam as a real threat. “Body of Lies” spends more time vilifying the CIA than terrorists. Dozens of features and documentaries have been made criticizing the war in Iraq. The villains in “The Sum of All Fears” were changed from Islamic radicals to neo-Nazis. If anything, Hollywood has treated Muslims with kid gloves in recent decades.

Sonny Bunch

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