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Arts & Entertainment

Want To Get In Shape? Turn On Your TV

Fri., March 28, 1997, midnight

It’s what the doctor ordered for the fully baked couch potato. It’s an antidote to boredom with the same old gym class and exercise video and a cheap, easy way to get fit at home or on the road.

Just click on the remote control, and you’ve got your exercise TV.

There are at least 10 cable TV shows to which you could work out - no matter what your fitness level. Fitness shows are growing and improving in quality and content, experts say.

Programs focus mostly on either strength-training or cardiovascular conditioning. Sometimes, there will be segments on other components of fitness such as flexibility and agility.

Fresh this year: Denise Austin debuted “Denise Austin’s Daily Workout” in January on Lifetime (which airs in Spokane at 7 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. weekdays); “Perfect Parts,” produced by Austin and featuring Olympic decathlete Dan O’Brien, was launched last week on ESPN2 (3 a.m. Sunday through Thursday).

Aside from ESPN2 and Lifetime, The Family Channel airs two hours or more of exercise shows from FiT TV (6 to 8 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. to noon weekdays in Spokane), depending on your cable company. Some areas even get the 24-hour channel FiT TV.

“We’ve beefed up our lineup,” said Dave Nagle, spokesman for ESPN2, citing consumer demand. “We launched a new show for our new seven-hour fitness block and each show will now be aired twice.”

ESPN and ESPN2 used to share fitness shows; this year, ESPN focuses strictly on sports programming, while ESPN2 has the fitness shows starting at 3 a.m.

FiT TV is experiencing terrific growth as well, said Jo-Ann Geffen, spokeswoman for FiT TV. “We started four years ago with 300,000 subscribers nationwide. We have 11.6 million subscribers or households as of Dec. 31, 1996.”

Who in the households watches these shows?

Mostly women, Nagle said. One of them was Jennifer Dempster, 29, of New York. When she was 23, she wasn’t exercising and weighed more than 150 pounds at 5-foot-5.

In an effort to bring her weight down for her Broadway dance career, she started watching Cory Everson’s and Gil Gilad’s workout shows.

Dempster eventually lost weight after she started exercising and stopped dieting. She even sent an audition tape in response to an ad in a trade magazine, Backstage, for new hosts of a cable fitness show.

That show was “BodyShaping.”

Dempster got the part in the show in 1991 as “the girl next door who would ask questions.” These days, Dempster, who wears a size 2, is a certified instructor.

Like bodies that become fit over time, fitness shows have gradually improved in content and presentation.

Serious doesn’t mean less fun at FiT TV - it just means a more wholesome approach that includes low-fat cooking, vitamin and health information.

“Fitness on TV is changing,” Geffen said. “This is a serious fitness show with cool instructors, some from Reebok. We have all levels, from beginner to advanced. There’s different stuff everyday.”

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