March 23, 2009 / 10:07 AM / 10 years ago

Fitness TV channel brings workouts back home

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Too shy, too broke, too busy, too lazy to hit the gym these days?

With FitTV, a cable station that offers 20 hours of fitness and health programing every day, another excuse for not exercising bites the proverbial dust.

But you’ll still have to get up off that couch.

“FitTV is currently the only network dedicated to fitness and keeping exercise and fitness programing fresh and accessible to everyone,” Carole Tomko, president and general manager of FitTV, said in an interview.

Part of Discovery Communications Inc., the station offers an array of workout choices, ranging from Pilates and aerobics to body sculpting, yoga, belly dancing and hip hop.

“I wanted FitTV to be a clear and inviting alternative to ‘hitting the gym,’” Tomko said from her headquarters in Silver Springs, Maryland.

To tune in is to discover a young and cheerful army of instructors replete with gleaming teeth, abs of steel and arms that would impress Michelle Obama, demonstrating their workout routines with the help of a few equally toned, color-coordinated friends.

There are also exotic locations. You may be in your living room, but decathlon champion Gilad Janklowicz, an aerobics instructor, is helping you develop your core from the golden sands of Hawaii’s Waikiki Beach.

In the “Namaste” yoga classes, bendy young women in sports bras and shorts execute their poses as the scene behind them shifts from park to beach to sun-flooded studio.

FitTV also delivers lifestyle programing on nutrition and weight loss, and a video-on-demand service allows viewers to call up favorite shows at will.

Dr. Kenneth McCulloch, an associate professor of orthopedic surgery of New York University School of Medicine, said that in general, the concept is a great idea.

“It seems that they recognize that diet and exercise go hand in hand,” McCulloch said. “The other major benefit is accessibility.”

FitTV targets adults ages 25-54 and is available in 47 million homes nationwide, according to Tomka, who says the subscriber base has increased steadily since the station’s 2003 inception.

But what about the viewers? Have their waistlines shrunk? Are they working out or are they sitting and snacking front of the TV while watching their instructors go for the burn?

Personal trainer Butch Sand thinks the latter is a real possibility.

“Anything that gets people going is good,” he said at a gym in New York City. “But Fit TV can be like that piece of equipment you bought but don’t use, except to hang your coat on.”

McCulloch agrees: “The drawback ... is a constraint of receiving fitness in a box. It is a one-way medium, so there can be no interaction.”

Tomka says the idea is not to compete with gyms but to “co-exist.”

“For some of our viewers, FitTV is their primary workout destination,” said Tomka, who said she hopes it makes working out more popular, convenient and user-friendly.

“If we’re succeeding there, we’re thrilled.”

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