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Ask FGG: Best beginner at-home workouts?
Posted by Angela in Ask FGG,Health + Beauty
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What are some good at-home workouts for beginners?

Whether your goal is weight loss, stress relief, improved flexibility or just stronger muscles and more energy to keep up with household chores/kids/the demands of an average day, the fact is our bodies need to move. Here at FGG, we’ve presented fat-girl-friendly exercise options as diverse as hiking, dance lessons, health club memberships, yoga, indoor rock climbing and – most recently – water aerobics. But what about those of us who aren’t ready to (or interested in) working out in public? Fortunately, the list of at-home workout options is miles long; unfortunately, it can be tricky to find the right starting point, especially if you want to ease your way into becoming more active. That's why we're glad to help narrow the search.

(We probably don't need to say this, but just in case: always get the green light from your health care provider before beginning any new exercise routine, especially if it's been a while since you've worked out).

As always, the best place to start is by understanding your goals. Are you looking for a cardio workout to get the blood flowing? Movements to increase your strength and flexibility? A fun way to get yourself up and off the couch? Or maybe there's a particular genre of fitness you've always wanted to try -- something like hip-hop dance or aerobic striptease? Opt for an activity that holds interest for you or risk throwing away your money on DVDs that will only gather dust on your shelf.

For one of the most basic at-home activities, walking,  Leslie Sansone's "Walk Away the Pounds" series is a tried-and-true fat-girl staple, thanks to easy movements, Sansone's focus on low-intensity variations, and a perfect-for-rookies one-mile workout that includes a warm-up and cool-down all in 20 minutes. (Note: Don't sweat the water-filled, two-pound weights Sansone recommends; you can replace them with any hand-held or wrist-worn substitute, grab a couple of soup cans, or just complete the movements sans weights.) Sansone also offers several toning videos that are great for beginners, and her style is upbeat and motivational (if a little chirpy for me some days).

Two examples of routines for plus-sized women by plus-sized women are "Just My Size Yoga with Megan Garcia" and "Look Great, Feel Great: Plus-Sized Pilates." Both videos feature real-sized hosts most fat girls will identify with, leading viewers through a range of beginning movements with thorough instructions. User reviews absolutely rave about "Just My Size Yoga" and Garcia's approach, while indicating that "Plus-Sized Pilates" may be for ultra-beginners, as it moves very slowly and features more instruction than continued movement. While this may not provide the start-to-finish workout some desire, it could be helpful for those who are unsure of Pilates and want to try some moves before upgrading to a full routine.

For more ideas and reviews from both real users and the pros, check out Exercise Videos Reviews or Collage Video. And, in addition to tell-it-like-it-is user experiences, you can also find sample clips for many videos on Amazon.com. Your local library may also have some titles for check-out, so take a test drive before investing if you're skeptical.

Don't be afraid to think outside the DVD box. Today's at-home exercise options are (thankfully) far more diverse than in the aerobics-and-crunches days of yore. Nintendo's Wii Fit Plus alone has revolutionized the concept of working out in your living room by pairing video game fun with moves that promote cardio, strength and balance benefits. With options to customize your workouts and track your progress while choosing activities ranging from hula hooping to snowball fighting to juggling, Wii Fit works hard to take the boredom out of becoming more active.

Another at-home option may even been at your fingertips right now: ExerciseTV is carried by many cable providers, including Comcast, AT&T and Tivo, and the On Demand menu offers dozens of programs each month that you can complete whenever you like. Typical programming includes beginning yoga, 20-minute cardio, walking for diabetics, and sculpting workouts with Kim Kardashian (no, seriously). Workout levels range from beginner to the very advanced. The ExerciseTV Web site also provides training clips and full workout videos available for download. I liked the real body shapes (tummies! hips! arms!) represented by the "Make Me Over 40-Minute Workout," but the range of motion was more demanding than I expected (a ton of squats), so consider this more of an more intermediate video.

Help add to our list by sharing your favorite at-home exercise routines in comments.