updated 11/19/2013 AT 3:45 PM ET
•originally published 11/24/2013 AT 9:50 AM ET
Lisa Whelchel has tried every exercise in the book – and she’s suffered the injuries to prove it.
“I hurt my shoulder playing racquetball, I have a lower back injury from an aerobics class and I messed up my feet while training to climb Mount Whitney,” she tells PEOPLE. “Even on Survivor, when I did the mud challenge, I developed sciatica that has continued to give me trouble.”
So what’s an active gal to do? “I decided to make my own exercise video,” says Whelchel, who turned 50 in May. “It’s a doable full-body workout that you can do in 20 minutes. It has stretching, resistance, cardio and a cool down. Exercise is different once you get a little older. It doesn’t always have to be high impact.”
The video, called Lisa Whelchel’s Everyday Workout for the Everyday Woman, is geared towards the women who grew up watching her on The Facts of Life.
“If you’re 20 and want to get into that tiny black dress, this may not be the workout for you,” she says with a laugh. “But there are a lot of women who are like I was: I was low energy. Gravity was showing up in the wrong places. I wanted to be healthy and not re-injure myself. Also, it would be nice if I could fit into the smaller jeans in the back of the closet!”
“The biggest step is getting off your couch to work out,” she adds. “You have to find ways that you can exercise. Once you start, you’ll be motivated to eat a little bit healthier, maybe find some other forms of exercise. When I do it, I definitely see results. I don’t end up looking like Jillian Michaels, but I feel and look better.”
Professionally, Whelchel is looking forward to the Dec. 13 release of her first film in decades, A Madea Christmas. “My heart is in comedy,” she says. The broader the comedy, the better! I was out of showbiz for so long, so it was perfect to re-enter it with a Tyler Perry movie. It’s like 90 minutes of an ’80s sitcom!”
When reminded that men may be nervous to ask out Blair Warner, she says with a laugh.
“Oh, please. I’m not that intimidating. Here’s my public service announcement to the men out there: Any woman wants a man who has enough confidence to ask them out. It’s worth the risk, even if she says no. But you never know – she might say yes!”