How many times did you go to the gym last year? If the answer is somewhere in the low double digits or fewer, maybe you're better off getting your workouts from the Web.
Streaming fitness sites offer the convenience and variety that many people need to stick with their fitness programs, at a fraction of the cost of gym memberships. Moreover, because you can access your workouts whenever and wherever you need them, it's harder to make excuses. There's also no DVD clutter to contend with, which is a plus in my book.
Of course, you'll need the motivation to regularly power up that workout on your laptop or tablet. (A smartphone can work in a pinch too.) And you'll need to proceed with caution, as there's no live instructor to correct bad form.
Here, in no particular order, are some of the best sites for streaming your next workout.
Cost: $10 a month or $60 for the year. www.dailyburn.com
Think of this site as your at-home gym. You can stream a range of high-definition workouts, including kickboxing, strength training and Latin dance. A related app also lets you play them on your smartphone or tablet.
You choose a program — from the Move! Dance workouts, the DB15 express routines or the main Intelliburn system — and the site selects workouts for you each time you log on. (You can also choose your own routines if you have favorite trainers or types of routines.)
During the Intelliburn workouts, you enter stats on the screen, including your weight and number of repetitions from that day's one-minute challenge, which might include sit-ups, push-ups or burpees.
This information is used to track your calorie burn (which flashes on-screen periodically) as well as your fitness progress, which you can compare to others in your age group. There are cues at the bottom of the screen to prepare you for the next move.
The site also features recipes and information on menu planning. However, I found this area lacking the specificity to be really helpful. While it tells you what items to eat — beans, rice, avocado, etc. — it does not how much of each constituted a reasonable portion size.
Moreover, many of the site's workouts are best suited for those with an established fitness routine. While there are modifications and cues on form, beginners or those with old injuries might find a large number of these workouts too challenging.
Fitness enthusiasts of all levels will appreciate this site, which streams fitness videos from five to 45 minutes across genres, such as dance cardio, circuit training, step aerobics and weightlifting.
The instructors here are top notch, including Amy Dixon, Michelle Dozois and Petra Kolber. However, the production value leaves a little to be desired. (The videos are shot against the bare white walls and light floor of FitnessGlo's Santa Monica studio from what appears to be a fixed camera position.) That means there's no zooming in to illustrate the instructor's form or expression, which can be off-putting.
Nevertheless, members can view as many videos as they want, selecting workouts based on style, level, duration or teacher.
The site also offers Click & Glo workouts, which offer a combination of cardio, strength and stretch moves for those viewers who want to put all their fitness needs in one workout without thinking too much about it.
Overall, it's a good way for most people to start an exercise program and find the variety to stay motivated, as the site's workouts are updated weekly.
And for those more interested in cultivating fitness through yoga, there's FitnessGlo's sister site, YogaGlo, which serves up practices from some of the nation's most respected instructors for $18 a month. Here, you can loosen your hips with a 60-minute Kundalini yoga class, take a 10-minute session in relaxing your neck or unwind with a 15-minute breath meditation.
Both sites offer a 15-day free trial.
Cost: $9.95 monthly. www.gaiamtv.com
If you're after a big collection of high-quality workouts, you might consider GaiamTV. With more than 900 exercise videos, including yoga, Pilates and weight training, the site should keep even the most avid fitness enthusiast busy for a while.
Be advised: There's a lot more to this site than fitness. In addition to the workouts, there are thousands of "conscious media" videos, including health talks and inspirational videos from the Dalai Lama, Deepak Chopra and Wayne Dyer.
While yoga routines make up almost half of Gaiam's exercise content, you'll also find other household fitness names such as the Firm, Jillian Michaels and Leslie Sansone providing cardio and strength routines, as well as a few "vintage" workouts from the 1990s that are heavy on the headbands and leotards.
It's a great site for beginners and intermediate exercisers, with top names and solid programs, but those looking for bigger physical challenges might be disappointed. Moreover, as these videos are tied to Gaiam's DVD releases, the workout library isn't updated as frequently as some other sites.
GaiamTV offers a 10-day trial.
BeFitin90 YouTube channel
Cost: Free. www.youtube.com/user/BeFitin90
If you have a big appetite for fitness but a small budget for it, YouTube is a great place to find instruction.
One of the best channels for those looking for circuit training is Lionsgate's BeFitin90, which offers a 90-day program of strength, cardio, yoga and athletic drill workouts. The plan serves up five days of workouts a week, each totaling 35 minutes, as well as health and nutrition tips on the off-days.
The workouts here, hosted by former British track-and-field Olympian Samantha Clayton and personal trainer Garret Amarine, are challenging, building in difficulty as you progress.
Subscribers to the BeFit channel, which Lionsgate uses to hawk its other workout DVDs, can find other free workout programs there as well, such as "30-Day Six-Pack Abs."
Worth a mention
Other sites that offer a more limited range of streaming workouts include the popular Physique 57 and Ballet Beautiful barre workouts on demand, as well as EMG Live Fitness, a New Jersey-based site that gives access to live workouts as well as videos on demand.