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Pilates is a form of exercise which is extremely popular in America, but hasn't reached the same dizzy heights in the UK over the past few years. Everyone has heard of Aerobics and Yoga, but if you were to stop and ask the average person on the street if they had heard of Pilates, the overwhelming response would be no. However, the last year has seen an increase in awareness of this exercise and the publishers of the FOR DUMMIES books (a widely recognised range of "How To" guides) have decided to take the plunge and transfer their special expertise to DVD. The result is Pilates Workout For Dummies, which is what I am to review.

Pilates Workout For Dummies
Pilates is a unique kind of exercise, in that it emphasises body alignment and correct breathing. It works the body as a whole, co-ordinating muscles in the upper and lower parts of the body with the centre of the body. Apparently this leads to dramatic improvements in strength, flexibility, posture and co-ordination. Usually Pilates would be taught on a one-to-one basis, making it inaccessible for most of us, so this DVD offers the chance to try out the type of fitness regime favoured by many celebrities these days in the comfort and privacy of our own homes. I had been looking to try Pilates myself so this DVD was the perfect opportunity.

There is a choice of whether to play either the introduction or exercises separately or one after the other. The introduction talks briefly about the basic principles of Pilates and gives a few points to keep in mind while doing the exercises. It also explains some of the terms used in the DVD for those of us who are not familiar with them. For someone who had no idea about this type of exercise that was very useful as it meant that these principles were fresh in my mind as I tried to do the exercises for the first time.

The main part of the DVD is the exercise section, which contains demonstrations of 18 different exercises. These can be done in succession to form a workout. The exercises include well known pilates movements such as The Hundred and The Corkscrew, but if like me you are a complete novice then the names won't mean much to you. Each exercise is explained and demonstrated by Michelle Dozois and then we are invited to try it with step-by-step instructions and a suggested number of repetitions, although she is careful to point out throughout the programme that it is quality, not quantity of movement that matters, and that you should only do as much as you feel comfortable with.

Pilates Workout For Dummies
This is one of the main advantages of Pilates. It isn't about the length of time you spend getting out of breath on a running machine, or pushing yourself as hard as possible by doing hundreds of repetitions (yes, I was a gym fanatic for a while!) This workout is much more about making the effort to do the exercises slowly and correctly, while maintaining concentration and breathing correctly in order to enhance the benefits. There is emphasis on mind and body working together on order to give you the most effective workout.

That said, I have to tell you that the exercises are not easy by any stretch of the imagination. I found most of them possible to do, but there are a couple that I still haven't mastered, even after working through them a few times. Then again, that may be due to the fact that I'm pretty unfit and not exactly flexible! Some will probably become much easier over time particularly as I've never done anything like this before. The other thing that is really helpful is that most of the exercises have a "basic" version shown in the corner of the screen at the same time as the exercise is being demonstrated, so that you can gradually build up to doing the full exercise, and once you have become an expert there are "challenges" detailed in the same way to help you get more from the workout once you have mastered the exercise. Throughout the exercises "tips" pop up on the screen to help you and there are also warnings about common mistakes.

My one complaint about the DVD is that each time you play a particular exercise you get the demonstration first. This is useful while you are still learning, and I suppose its good to remind yourself of the instructions before doing a particular exercise, but it might have been useful to have a section where the exercises just play one after the other without the demonstrations in between for an uninterrupted workout. However, as this is meant to be a basis for just learning a few pilates and doesn't claim to be an actual workout, this cannot be expected.

Pilates Workout For Dummies
Anchor Bay have produced a transfer which exceeded all my expectations and it also puts to shame some high profile releases. The company is renowned for producing first class DVD transfers, but even they could have been forgiven for supplying a mediocre transfer for this title. Pilates for Dummies is presented in 4.3 full screen, the image is pristine and clarity levels are also first class. However, the most striking aspect of this transfer is the colour palette, colours were vibrant and fresh, while the skin tones were also realistic. Simply put, this is one of the truest looking transfers I have seen for a long time. There appeared to be no signs of compression artifacts and edge enhancements also kept a low profile. Chances are most people who purchase this DVD will not notice the high quality transfer, as they will be panting for breath or straining to complete their set of stretches, but that hasn't stopped Anchor Bay producing a transfer of exceptional quality.

There is only the one soundtrack available with this release, which is slightly surprising. The Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack is as you would expect, but the fact that no foreign soundtracks are provided severely limits the target audience for this release. Dialogue levels and clarity are all that matter with this release, and the narrator of this feature is clear throughout. The only other thing to mention in this section is that there are no subtitles included (not even English!), which is poor by today's standards.

The extras for this release are sparse to say the least, but that didn't come as a great surprise given the nature of the topic. The first extra is called 'The Icons Explained' and basically shows some of the icons that appear during the exercises, and what their titles are. This is a very simplistic extra and just shows a few images.

Pilates Workout For Dummies
The only other extra is called 'Also Available', which is simply an advert for the 'Yoga For Dummies', the companies other exercise DVD which was released the same times as this one. So there you have it, not much to get excited about! It would have been nice to have a section detailing the history of Pilates, or even some extra exercises, but sadly the opportunity has been missed.  

All in all I found this to be a good start for learning the basics of Pilates. The instructions and demonstrations are clear and easy to follow, and the exercises take about 45 minutes to do one after the other as a workout, which I found pretty reasonable. I bought a book on Pilates a few months ago, but have never got round to trying to learn exercises from that as it looked complicated without anyone to demonstrate them. Perhaps now I'll make the effort to learn more Pilates from my book. Hopefully this is the answer to maintaining a fitness regime less stressful than those we have traditionally been used to in this country. The video aspect of this disc is first class, however it is slightly let down by a feeble selection of extras, but will purchasers of this disc really care? I think not! For this reason the disc has maintained a high score. Pilates for Dummies is a well thought out fitness DVD which is easy to recommend, so what are you waiting for, get to the shop, buy this DVD and work your body!