Health DVDs | Collection Development

While Fitbits and smartphones have taken "home fitness" outdoors, the consumer health DVD market continues to yield high customer appeal. These 31 programs offer plenty of viewing advice.


While Fitbits, downloadable media, streaming video, and fitness podcasts and apps have taken “home fitness” outdoors, the consumer health DVD market continues to yield high customer appeal. We live in an à la carte marketplace, in which many different access methods not only coexist but excel in their respective context.

We were trained to believe that, in media format terms, monotheism was the only option. In our previous home entertainment history, single formats (vinyl, cassettes, etc.) not only ruled for a generation but helped to define them. But as history has continued to prove otherwise (print didn’t die, etc.) and people have become accustomed to living in a “time of transition,” we have become proud format and device agnostics: traveling with ereaders, we prefer books at home, scroll magazines on tablets, download audiobooks for a bike ride, pop a DVD in for our kids, and stream videos—with equal aplomb.

So what is so distinctive or special about the consumer health DVD market? As library staff we are conscious of knowing our audience and meeting our customers/patrons at their point of need. It’s all about context, particularly time and place. Many fitness and exercise enthusiasts use DVDs to try out new routines or methods (in the judgment-free privacy of their own home), but others are dealing with time constraints and choose DVDs because they represent convenient preportioned workouts that can be slotted. Users are looking for effectiveness, efficiency, and results. Many fervent exercise junkies are regimented self-starters who burn through DVDs, so they will always be looking for something new to “mix it up.” This is a great user group to evolve through readers’ advisory (RA). For example, if they are into Jillian Michaels’s 30 Day Shred, hip them to Tony Horton’s P90 (the less time-demanding relative of P90X), or other HIIT (high-intensity interval training) programs. If they are into tai chi or yoga, introduce them to qigong.

For viewers looking for health, medical, or childbirth/pregnancy videos, authoritative content trumps all. They are often accessed for answers, peace of mind, and constructive directions. Topically, they tend to be more narrowly focused and therefore can be difficult to locate on TV/cable. This makes them ideal for DVD viewing. Viewers will also want this information to be available and palatable, so there must be a degree of production value enhancement. The pitfall for many of these films is their dryness and (sometimes, unintentionally comical) woodenness.

Cooking, diet, and nutrition devotees are similarly looking for a balance of information/instruction and entertainment. Whether cooking show or indie doc, these are often personality- and perspective-driven titles. Foodie culture demands that the production be highly visual and organizationally clear (because we eat first with our eyes)—and viewed just as enjoyably in the kitchen (for instruction) as on the couch (for pleasure). Cooking shows and documentaries lend themselves to DVD viewing because both can be difficult to track down on streaming platforms (some shows simply aren’t available or their cataloging is imprecise; docs are from smaller studios that restrict availability).

The list of programs below is not comprehensive but meant instead to encourage viewer’s advisory as an excellent opportunities for pathfinding (and to an extent RA, as many of these titles offer print companions and often feature presenters who are authors as well).

Starred (redstar) titles are essential for all collections.

Ben Malczewski is the Media Relations Coordinator, Toledo–Lucas County Public Library, and has reviewed for LJ since 2007. His (seemingly contrary) interest overlap of foodie, film buff, and self-motivated fitness enthusiast, while ideal for this feature, means he weighs exactly the same now as when he started


redstarA Beginner’s Guide to Mindfulness Meditation. 103 min. BayView Entertainment. 2014. DVD UPC 845121078107.

Instructor Ira Israel serves as an encouraging guide to beginning meditation. The design is to start with a five-minute exercise, then add a minute a day.

redstarEasy Yoga for Arthritis. 110 min. PBS. 2010. DVD UPC 841887012836.

An effective introduction to and demonstration of movements to use at home to strengthen muscles and help increase mobility for people who are challenged by arthritis and injury- or age-related stiffness. Good for easing someone into movement.

HeavyWeight Yoga: Yoga for the Body You Have Today. 2 hrs. HeartFelt Yoga. 2007.

Yoga for people who are overweight or obese; a gentle, encouraging introduction to yoga movements (­d3yf3049aDt).

redstarJillian Michaels 30 Day Shred. 60 min. Lionsgate. 2007. DVD UPC 031398226956.

Three 20-minute, highly effective workouts that you can squeeze into the busiest schedule—and not feel like you’ve skimped. Her 3-2-1 Interval System combines strength, cardio, and ab work. HIIT.

Lisa Whelchel’s Everyday Workout for the Everyday Woman. 44 min. Acorn Media. 2013. DVD UPC 054961215195.

Aided by trainer Janice Clark, Whelchel (Blair on TV’s The Facts of Life) leads two workouts geared toward women, or anyone just beginning exercise and looking for an encouraging vibe. Low impact, this could also be used as a first-rate range-of-­motion routine for seniors.

P90X. 13 discs. 690 min. Beachbody. 2009 (newer editions available).

These demanding workouts, each designed with a specific fitness objective, both physical and in terms of time, are highly effective and intense. For the advanced fitness enthusiast, complex movements are transitioned quickly (necessitating focus). Workouts with or without music, music and cues, silence and cues, etc. ( Tony Horton’s P90 is more accessible in terms of time and fitness level.)

ljx161001webcd2redstarStronger Seniors: Stretch and Strength. 2 discs. 95 min. Spectrum Music & Video. 2012. DVD UPC 837101439602.

Accessible range-of-motion exercises designed for seniors and those with mobility or health challenges. The length of each routine (51 min. and 44 min.) may be a bit long for some, but they encourage cardio health and promotes endurance.

Yoga Booty Ballet: Complete Workout System. 204 min. Anchor Bay Entertainment. 2006. DVD UPC 013131479492.

Fitness experts Gillian Marloth and Teigh McDonough present an effective dance-style workout that opens up joints and energizes the body. It’s fun, but the choreographically challenged may have trouble keeping up. “The Dancer’s 7-Day Diet” is designed to shed seven pounds in one week.

Yoga for Beginners & Beyond. 600 min. Bodywisdom Media. 2010. DVD UPC 633023950092.

For beginners and intermediates, sessions ranging from 15–60 minutes, including a.m./p.m. and relaxation routines. (For advanced practitioners: Rodney Yee: Power Yoga, from Gaiam.)

Zumba Fitness Complete Total Body Transformation System. 4 discs. 250 min. Zumba Fitness, LLC. 2009. DVD UPC 797734732399.

Zumba classes can be expensive, and this program is a great way for patrons to enjoy and join “the party.” Zumba sticks are included, so librarians will have to be inventive about dealing with multiple ­components.


redstarForks over Knives. 90 min. Virgil Films & Entertainment. 2011. DVD UPC 829567076026.

This documentary argues that many of the ailments taxing our health and wealth could be prevented or reversed by adopting a whole-foods, plant-based diet. It will make users examine their own (and popular) eating habits and consider nutrition labels; a valuable ­addition.

ljx161001webcd3redstarIn Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. 2 hrs. PBS. 2015. DVD ISBN 9781627895743; Blu-ray ISBN 9781627895804.

Best-selling science and nutrition author Michael Pollan’s 2008 book is adapted in this PBS-aired doc addressing how to reverse the health damage done by today’s industrially driven Western diet.

King Corn. 88 min. Docurama. 2007. DVD UPC 767685115046.

A stranger-than-fiction exploration of how corn became the ultra-industrial and ultra-ubiquitous dietary ingredient that dominates our food pyramid. Humorous and alarming. ( LJ 9/15/08)

Supersize Me. 96 min. Sony Pictures. 2004. DVD UPC 829567014721.

Morgan Spurlock won best director at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival for this exposé of the commercial food industry. What happens when a diet consists only of McDonald’s? A gimmick? Yes, but (still) highly worthwhile. ( LJ 2/1/05)

Vanishing of the Bees. 87 min. True Mind. 2011. DVD UPC 826262006792.

Filmed across the United States, Europe, Australia, and Asia, this documentary examines the alarming disappearance of honey­bees and the greater meaning it holds about the relationship between humankind and Mother Earth—a crisis that affects the growth of hundreds of fruits and vegetables. ( LJ 6/1/11)

medical Issues/Healthy living

redstarAddiction. 86 min. HBO. 2012. DVD UPC 883929248223.

Several of the nation’s leading experts on drug and alcohol addiction aim to help Americans understand addiction as a treatable brain disease. One in four Americans has a family member who is struggling with addiction, yet fewer than ten percent of those individuals are receiving treatment. Promising developments in the field combine with personal stories that humanize the reality of the struggle.

ljx161001webcd5redstarThe Brain. 300 min. PBS. 2015. DVD UPC 841887026079.

Hosted by neuroscientist David Eagleman, this work explores the wonders of the human brain in a six-part series that reveals why people feel and think as we do. This ambitious project blends science with innovative visual effects and compelling personal stories and addresses some big questions—suggesting that by understanding the human brain, we can come closer to understanding humanity.

The Misunderstood Epidemic: Depression. 57 min. IronZeal Films. 2010. DVD UPC 087400991398.

An intimate look at how depression affects its victims and their families. Filmmaker Susan Polis Schutz (author of Depression and Back) draws on her own experiences in this documentary that explores symptoms, suicide, stigma, and lack of understanding; the stress on relationships; and the loss of the ability to work. A worthwhile primer to begin a much larger discussion.


All My Babies: A Midwife’s Story. b/w. 54 min. Image Entertainment. 2007. DVD UPC 014381384529.

This story of Mary Coley, an African American midwife who delivered more than 3,000 babies in rural Georgia in the mid-20th century, was chosen for preservation in the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically ­significant.”

Better Breastfeeding: Your Guide to a Healthy Start. 2d ed. 25 min. Injoy Prods. 2008.

This video, created with the help of the International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA), answers parents’ most common breast-feeding questions. An updated and longer third edition from 2013 includes latch and milk production animation, how to express by hand, and a positions image library. The comprehensive and encouraging style helps to ease what can be an anxiety-inducing process for new parents. Also in a Spanish edition.

Complete Pregnancy Fitness with Erin O’Brien: Workouts for Before & After Childbirth. 117 min. Acorn Media. 2007. DVD UPC 054961938193.

An accessible, pregnancy-considerate routine that can be done at home. No equipment necessary, but moving between positions may take some adjustment. Includes a “partner” workout with her husband and former Desperate Housewives “hunk” James Denton.

Having Your Baby! A Complete Lamaze Prepared Childbirth Class. 2 hrs. Parent Prods. 2004. DVD UPC 826353234394.

Taught by obstetrical RNs/ASPO (originally the American Society for Psychoprophylaxis) childbirth educators, this is designed for people who have difficulty attending childbirth classes. A serviceable supplement, or for those looking for a bit more practice. ( LJ 8/00)

Pregnancy for Dummies. 3 hrs. Wellspring Media. 2002. ISBN 9781583501801.

Based on the book of the same title by Joanne Stone and Keith Eddleman, the DVD introduces viewers to real-life couples experiencing the challenges and rewards of pregnancy.


ljx161001webcd7redstarAmerica’s Test Kitchen: Season 16. 676 min. PBS. 2016. DVD UPC 841887028202.

The venerable PBS series is back with its trademark Consumer Reports–like process to discover the best ingredients, gadgets, and kitchen equipment. ( LJ 10/1/14)

redstarGood Eats with Alton Brown. Food Network. 1999–2012. DVD UPC 687797919199.

Brown’s playful and highly practical and informative guide to technique, ingredients, and equipment is a self-described combination of Julia Child, Mr. Wizard/Bill Nye, and Monty Python.

redstarJacques Pépin: Heart & Soul. 780 min. PBS. 2016. DVD UPC 841887026178

Fans of Jacques Pépin: The Essential Pépin and The Complete Pépin: Techniques and Recipes will find here the chef’s familiar wit, warmth, and wisdom. Impeccable technique from a master, in his final series.

Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease. 90 min. Mostly Magic. 2015. DVD UPC 013964687187.

With easygoing yet confident chemistry, mother and daughter cooking duo and coauthors of The Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease Cookbook Ann Crile Esselstyn and Jane Esselstyn present this informative more-than-just-cooking-instruction video. It’s right up the alley of plant-based diet (such as Engine 2) followers and as much about “why” as “how.” Especially valuable for those looking to address concerns over heart disease and high blood pressure.

Medical/Social Health Issues

redstarCaring for Mom and Dad. 60 min. PBS. 2015. UPC 841887025027.

Though it marks the beginning of a deeper conversation, this title explores the implications of 78 million baby boomers living longer, ranging from the emotional (particularly regarding the role reversal involved with now-dependent parents) to the financial aspects.

ljx161001webcd8How To Dance in Ohio. 90 min. Kino Lorber. 2016. DVD UPC 738329206031.

A piercing portrait of a group of teenagers on the autism spectrum as they prepare for an iconic event: the spring formal dance. It doesn’t shy away from provoking tough questions as the dance itself serves as a model for social skill therapy, as well as a platform for larger concerns.

Tackling Diabetes with Dr. Neal Barnard. 150 min. DPTV. 2016. DVD UPC 796539029369.

A discussion of how to reverse the effects of diabetes—a disease that affects more than 24 million children and adults in America—through diet and healthy habits.

redstarThin. 60 min. HBO. 2012. DVD UPC 026359372926.

Inside the walls of Florida’s Renfrew Center, a residential facility for the treatment of women with eating disorders, with four young women (ages 15–30) who have spent their lives starving themselves, often to the point of death. The film chronicles the pervasiveness of eating disorders in our society with heart-wrenching insight.

redstarThis Emotional Life. 4 hrs. PBS. 2010. DVD UPC 841887011693.

Hosted by Daniel Gilbert (psychology, Harvard Univ.), this series addresses issues such as improving social relationships, resolving negative feelings (depression, anxiety, etc.), and searching for greater happiness. By the end, viewers will have a deeper sense of what makes them tick and how to use that information to improve their emotional and social well-being. 

The Developing Schedule

DEC XERISCAPING & BEYOND JAN 2017 RUSSIAN REVOLUTION @ 100 FEB 2017 ALTERNATIVE ENERGY MAR 2017 INDIGENOUS PEOPLES APR 2017 THE ISLAMIC EXPERIENCE To submit titles (new and/or backlist), contact Barbara Genco four to six months before issue dates listed above (email:
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