In case you haven't heard, women come in binders. They also apparently like to shop, which is the premise behind a new made-in-Toronto exercise app, Purse Fitness: Exercises for Women, which can be downloaded free from iTunes onto your iPhone or iPad, then referred to for guidance as you work out.
Most of the 33 moves in the illustrated series are strength training basics – tricep dips, bridges, lunges and squats – accessorized with a purse (or, in the case of the lunges, two purses, because "you know you have more than one bag!") for resistance.
There's no clear advantage to using your bag instead of a hand weight, aside from accessibility. No specific weight is recommended for the exercises, but as it turns out, my satchel is heavier than I thought. Stuffed with my daily accoutrements (a magazine, an apple and two cans of Diet Coke), it rings in at five pounds.
Purse Fitness includes such moves as "Ready, Set, Shop" (a tricep kickback in which you hold a bag in one hand; the instructions note that it's "important for the tricep muscles to be strong while carrying a heavy shopping bag") and "Innocent Liar" (a shrug-like shoulder raise performed while holding your purse with both hands, suggested as practice for when "your partner asks you why their credit card is maxed out.")
With my pulse already elevated out of irritation – perhaps my sense of humour is also in need of a workout? – I work my way through the app, which is more of a glossary of moves than a specific workout. Midway through a move entitled "Save Your Money, Honey" (a chest exercise in which you raise your purse over your head while lying on your back on an exercise ball), I begin to wonder if any women were consulted in the creation of this app.
They were, says software developer Joseph Moscatiello. He tells me the idea came to him after overhearing his sister complain about the weight of her purse, and that she and a panel of female friends offered feedback during the development stage. When I ask him whether he was concerned that women might be offended by a workout predicated on such clichéd premises, he admits "it had crossed his mind," but says, very sincerely, that he did not intend to offend.
Since going live in mid-September, Purse Fitness has received a decent 1,500 downloads, yet it's not a highly polished app. The iPad version I tested crashed frequently, and while the line illustrations that accompany each move are helpful, the spelling error-laced instructions are not only offensive on occasion, but also vague. For instance, instead of specific directives for how many reps of each exercise to complete, most say either "repeat" or, for especially problematic areas (I presume) "repeat, repeat, repeat." Moscatiello and his colleagues are working on an update, however, which is scheduled to launch in late October.
There's not a lot to recommend about the current iteration of Purse Fitness, considering that the App Store is stocked with better, less obnoxious strength-training tutorials. On the bright side, it is free – which means more money for shopping!