Fitness for Couch Potatoes
Tune in and tone up with our TV-watching workout
Are you addicted to your TiVo? Never miss an episode of CSI? Got sore
thumbs from clicking from one football game to another?
If TV is a must-see for you, it's easy to let it cut into your workout time.
But fitness doesn't have to mean foregoing your favorite shows. How about
working in a workout in front of the tube? Even fitness experts find
TV-watching workouts helpful -- and sometimes, a necessity.
Bob Prichard is so busy with his duties as director of Somax Sports, a
training facility in Tiburon, Calif., that he doesn't have a lot of time to
exercise. So he's made it a habit to work out whenever he watches TV.
"I have a treadmill set up in my living room and I walk at a brisk, but
comfortable pace, while watching a DVD or TV," he says. "This way, I
get in one to three hours of exercise per day. (I often watch golf tournaments,
baseball games, etc.)"
Kinesiologist Shari Feuz, an exercise advisor with the International Council
on Active Aging in Vancouver, says Prichard's approach can work well -- as long
as you're working hard enough to feel it.
"It is absolutely possible to improve your fitness level in front of the
TV, if the intensity is adequate, just as it is quite possible to go to a
fitness center several times per week and NOT improve your fitness level,"
Feuz says. Given how much TV most of us watch, exercising at the same time is
not a bad idea. Studies show that American men average 29 hours a week of TV
watching, while women rack up about 34 hours. That gives us a lot of time to
fit in some extra activity.
"This is multitasking at its best," says Mare Petras, author of
Fitness Simply, which includes a chapter titled "Here's Oprah,"
dedicated to fitness in front of the TV.
"We're an all-or-nothing society," says Petras. "We think that
if we can't exercise for an hour at a time, that it doesn't count. But that's
not true. It doesn't have to be 'black or white' with fitness. It all adds
Don't Touch That Dial
In fact, if you're not ready to risk losing track of the plot of that
fast-moving drama by doing a full-blown workout, you can fit in fitness breaks
during the commercials. This can be an especially good option for
Linda Buch, author of The Commercial Break Workout, points out that a
30-minute sitcom has about 10 minutes' worth of commercials. Instead of using
this time to reach for a handful of cookies or chips, get moving!
Among Buch's suggestions:
- Pushups. If floor pushups are too difficult for you, start off by standing
up with your hands on the wall, then pushing back. Do this 10 times; increase
the reps as the exercise gets easier.
- Chair squats. Stand up, sit down, then stand right back up (for even more
of a workout, don't sit down all the way). Do this for the length of one
commercial. As it gets easier, do it again for the next commercial.
- Marching in place. Move both your arms and legs; add jumping jacks to
increase the intensity.
"Little bits of exercise like these strung together add up to energy
expended," says Buch.