So I bought an $8 yoga mat and a $70 pair of adjustable dumbbells and turned on my TV, which includes the YouTube app. I then subscribed to three of the most popular YouTube channels that have free content for exercising at home: Yoga With Adriene, Fitness Blender and Holly Dolke.
One immediate downside was almost too much content — often hundreds of videos per YouTuber — making it difficult to pick a workout. Even when I finally chose a video, I learned I had to brace myself for some quality issues.
In the Yoga With Adriene channel, for instance, I selected the video “Yoga for When You Feel Dead Inside,” which felt appropriate for the time we are living in. The video looked good, but at times the instructor’s voice sounded muffled.
Production problems were more visible in the Holly Dolke channel, which has a collection of intense workouts that you can do without any equipment. When I tried the video “Muffin Top Melter,” an instructor in the background demonstrated how to do a more challenging version of each exercise, but the other instructor, in the foreground, constantly blocked her.
Then there were the ads. As I lifted weights while following a 10-minute fat-burning workout from Fitness Blender, YouTube interrupted the video to play an ad for Dawn soap. That left me holding a dumbbell above the back of my neck while I waited for the ad to end.
Those issues aside, I was able to do all of the exercises demonstrated by these YouTubers, and they left me winded and sweaty. For the cost of free, I can’t complain much. Most important, Yoga With Adriene succeeded in making me feel less dead inside.
To compare the free YouTube exercise videos with the paid experience, I subscribed to Peloton and Apple Fitness Plus on my Apple TV set-top box. I did workouts using both products for the last two months.