Personal Fitness Infomercials

Physical fitness and weight loss infomercials have gone from promising ease to promising a grueling challenge. What happened?

For some reason, when I first turn my television on in the morning, I’m greeted with infomercials for various physical fitness systems. Presumably, something records on those channels overnight. At any rate, I’ve noticed something interesting.

Not long ago, the selling point of these sort of things was ease. That is, you could lose 30 pounds, become slimmer and sexier, and whatnot without changing your lifestyle one iota. You could continue sitting on the couch stuffing your face with snack foods and by taking this pill or doing this easy thing for 5 minutes a day, the pounds would simply melt off.

Lately, though, they’re just the opposite. They promise ridiculously grueling workouts that would make a Navy SEAL cry. But, if you work your ass off for 45 minutes a day for the next 90 days, you’ll be amazed at the improvement.

The latter is radically more realistic. The former is radically more appealing.

So, what’s happened? Has there been some FDA regulation issued that I’m unaware of banning the old style commercials? Or have we suddenly become a culture that wants to be challenged?

FILED UNDER: Health, Media, Sports, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. TJM says:

    I suspect these are marketed to a different audience. These videos appeal to people who are already in shape and want to confirm that they can keep up with the video. I suppose a few fat bodies might also purchase, since busting your ass seems more realistic than taking a magic pill. For them, this is a good purchase because it’s cheaper than a treadmill and takes up less space.

  2. My first thought was “market bifurcation,” similar to TJM’s point.

    People who exercise strenuously may actually reach an addiction though, so there is danger at the other end. See also “ultra” events and heart scarring.

  3. I think the most telling thing is that these infomercials tend to run when most normal people are asleep.

    And, yes, I often wake up to the same thing as James, typically because I had set the DVR to record something on a random channel somewhere while I slept or something

  4. Racehorse says:

    If you want grueling workouts for free, just search “spartan 300 workouts” and see what you get. Also, some of the UFC fighters have really tough workout videos. Seems like the big thing now is flipping heavy tires over and hitting them with hammers. I have a better idea that will really build arm, ab, and back strength: get a pick (or mattock) and dig some holes with it. 30 minutes a day at first will get anyone into great shape. Rope climbing (from the old gym class days) is great, but you have to have a strong tree limb about 15 feet high. I think people are going back to the old circuit routines: run in place, sit ups. jumping jacks, push ups, bench stepping, jumping rope, chin ups.