Image: Michele Galindo
Jack Plunkett  /  AP
Michele Galindo exercises with the help of a streaming video in her home in Austin, Texas.
updated 5/2/2006 6:50:35 PM ET 2006-05-02T22:50:35

Tired of the commute to the gym? Embarrassed to be seen sweating in public? Bored with your workout video?

Now there are alternatives to the gym — and to exercise videos and cable TV fitness shows. A handful of companies are offering streaming fitness video online.

This new format is still in its infancy. But experts say technological advancements, such as fitness equipment with Internet connections and the ability to hook the computer up to the television have helped make Web-based exercise more popular.

One fan is Michele Galindo, who enjoys practicing yoga and body-sculpting at her home in Austin. She has two computers, both in rooms with plenty of open space.

“I don’t have any problem seeing it,” Galindo said when asked about getting her exercise cues from a computer screen.

Galindo says she’s never been a fan of the gym and doesn’t like the commute. So she’s a customer of Austin-based demandFitness, which started its online fitness business in March.

“In the past I haven’t kept up with an exercise program, because it’s not convenient or I get tired of it,” said Galindo, 42.

'Next wave of online fitness'
The Austin company is among several that have popped up in recent years offering fitness and health advice. Some offer a smorgasbord of diet and exercise information along with video clips to explain exercises. Fewer, like demandFitness, offer longer workouts with streaming video.

“This is really the cutting edge stuff,” said Raphael Calzadilla, chief fitness pro at eDiets.com, a 10-year-old subscription-based online diet, fitness and health site, which offers animated video clips to explain certain exercises. “This is the next wave of online fitness.”

Jas Singh, president of California-based SlimTree.com, said, “People can watch them at home, at work or in a hotel room.” SlimTree offers about 30 streaming workouts from Pilates to martial arts and frequently adds new ones.

Singh, who would not disclose customer numbers for his 8-month-old Web site, said plans range from about $4 a week for six weeks to about $8 a month for a year and the videos run from 10 to 30 minutes.

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Austin-based demandFitness says it has about 100 customers accessing more than 80 workout choices from fitness ballet to aerobics. Plans range from about $15 a month to a day pass for 99 cents. New classes are often added, including niche areas like yoga for overweight people.

“You can work out when you want, where you want,” said co-founder John Webster.

Personalization and interactivity
Such sites often try to connect with customers by having them fill out a questionnaire and then offering advice on classes to achieve their goals.

In the future, customers should expect even more personalization, Webster said. He hopes to better track customers’ workout progress, adding such features as heart monitor data that would feed into their workout history.

“The next big step is all these pieces of interactivity,” he said.

At the moment, though, some experts worry about a lack of interactivity.

A trainer in the gym can offer advice about exercise form and technique, said Michael Maina, who teaches health and human performance at Roanoke College in Salem, Va. He said it’s important to check the credentials of the Web instructors.

Not a replacement for personal trainers
Cedric Bryant, exercise physiologist for the American Council Exercise, said there should be phone or e-mail contact with the people running the site. And it’s a good idea for those with limited exercise experience to first get a few sessions with a personal trainer.

“Then they should have an idea of what works for them,” he said.

Steven Taylor, founder of California-based Yoga Learning Center, said he doesn’t see the Web-based approach “as a replacement for live instruction or personal trainers, but it’s definitely going to be a supplement that people can use.”

Yoga Learning Center offers about 50 yoga audio/video streams for about $10 a month; videos range from 4 to 90 minutes.

“Some people hook it up to their TV because that technology is getting better and better,” said Taylor, who started the site three years ago and wouldn’t disclose the number of subscribers. “With wireless connectivity, you can take your laptop anywhere in the house.”

Maina, the health professor, noted that Web-based programs can lend flexibility for different ability levels.

Exercising online also emboldens people to try something outside their comfort zone, like an athletic guy trying yoga, said Valerie MacLean, director of fitness programs at directFitness.

Last week, America Online launched a free six-week series called Beach Ready Boot Camp featuring 15- to 20-minute streaming video workouts. It also offers workout instruction in audio files.

“It feels almost like you have a personal trainer in your home,” said Margit Detweiler, editorial director for AOL Diet and Fitness.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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