While exercise videos may bring workout regimens to the comfort of your own home, safe from judgment or voyeurs, it may not be as helpful as you might think. A new study out of Oregon State University finds a link between exercise DVDs and negative body image, as well as unrealistic body expectations, finding that they have a risk of causing "psychological harm."

There isn't much research on the efficacy of exercise DVDs in helping people to lose weight or become healthier, though there's quite a bit of advertising rhetoric in the media that can mislead people. Fad diets, exercise plans, and pills fall into this category. "These findings raise concerns about the value of exercise DVDs in helping people develop and commit to a workout program," Brad Cardinal, a professor of kinesiology in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University, said in the press release. "There are a lot of exaggerated claims through the imagery and language of 'do this and you’ll look like me.'"

The researchers examined 10 popular exercise DVDs, paying attention to both the imagery and the "motivational" speech instructors use. They concluded that most of the images in the videos emphasized sexualized and unrealistic bodies, with the majority of instructors being thin, white women wearing revealing clothes. These trends in the media can have a harmful impact on people's self-esteem and body image, especially since many people using these videos are likely overweight or obese.

The ultimate issue with these DVDs is that the images reinforce the idea healthy people should be slim and have the typical hyper-sexualized female body often seen in magazines. It prioritizes physical appearance over a healthy lifestyle.

That's not to say exercise videos or do-it-yourself methods aren't effective; many people can benefit from working out in their own homes. Cardinal reminds those of us embarking on a workout routine to not compare ourselves to others, and to keep in mind that everyone is different when it comes to body shape and effective workouts.

"You're inviting into your home these images and messages that could make you feel bad about yourself, and ultimately hinder your efforts to improve your health," Cardinal said in the press release. "If the experience is not positive, the likelihood the person is going to continue with an exercise program diminishes…Remember that we all have different body shapes and styles, and our bodies may respond differently to the exercises being shown."

Source: Cardinal B. Sociology of Sport Journal. 2016.