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Step Two: Choose the right activities

Remember, it's always wise to consult your doctor before beginning any kind of exercise program. Your doctor can help you choose activities that are suitable for you, especially if you have a medical problem or are significantly overweight. There are three components to a well-rounded fitness program: cardiovascular conditioning, strength training, and flexibility training.

Cardiovascular conditioning, or aerobic activity, burns fat and calories as fuel, and makes the heart muscle more efficient. Regularly exercising the aerobic energy systems of the body is strongly correlated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

In the video world, "cardio" usually means step aerobics or a wide range of styles lumped into the category of "floor aerobics" because they require no equipment. These styles include hi/lo (a combination of high and low impact floor aerobics), low impact aerobics, kickboxing, and dance-inspired workouts. There are even a few videos designed to be done using a slide or a stationary or special "spinning" bicycles.

Strength training is an area many women neglect out of fear of getting bulky muscles, when in reality strength training is instrumental in helping women maintain a toned physique, especially as they age. Adding muscle increases the amount of calories your body burns at rest and during exercise, so regular strength training can increase the rate of fat loss significantly when combined with aerobic activity. Strength training is also crucial for maintaining healthy bones, and helps improve your level of "functional fitness"--with regular strength training, carrying a toddler or hoisting those 20 pound bags of dog food will not seem as tiring.

There are a wealth of strength training options on video, from workouts that use just your own body weight as resistance to those that use rubber bands, dumbells, or barbells to help you get stronger. Some videos choreograph the strength routine to music, others are put together more like a gym workout. Some combine both strength and cardio activity in one video or even alternate during the workout (known as circuit training).

The past couple of years we've seen many videos released that focus on core strength and functional fitness. Pilates, yoga, and balance ball videos would fall into this category.

With only so many hours in the week to exercise, it's easy to make flexibility a low priority, but including regular flexibility training in your schedule will keep your joints healthy and may even reduce your risk of injury. Stretching can be an excellent stress reducer, too.

Most videos have a short stretching segment at the beginning (after a warm up) and/or at the end of the video, though many such segments are probably insufficient to improve flexibility. Consider one of the many stretching videos on the market or a yoga or pilates video, both of which focus on both core strength and flexibility.

Step Three: Choose the right videos