TV Tone Up: Pros and Cons of Working Out While Watching TV

If you’re someone who loves exercising, incorporating it into your regular regime isn’t a difficult task. Just as with anything else important to you, it’s simply a matter of prioritizing and planning your schedule accordingly.


But what if you’re one of the 80% of Americans who don’t make moving a regular habit, as reported by the American Heart Association’s 2012 survey?1


What is the typical American’s time spent doing when they’re not at work or tending to the kids? You guessed it: they’re watching TV.


Whether or not it’s from the couch surfing vantage point or droning on in the background, Nielsen consumer insights report the average American watches more than five hours of live television every day.2 And it gets worse; the older we get, the more we watch. Between the additional 32 minutes spent each day on time-shifted television, an hour using the Internet on a computer, and an hour and seven minutes on a smartphone, we’re glued to our screen.3


You can argue there are better things to do with a collective seven hours and thirty-nine minutes per day. All of this screen time isn’t helping our current state of health (or lack thereof) in the US. Watching television increases our risk for diabetes, heart disease, obesity, attention problems and weight gain in children. And for the fellas, watching 20 hours of television per week has been associated with a 44% reduction in sperm.4


Of course, not all TV watching is sedentary. We can assume at least some multitasking whether we’re working, cooking and even…exercising.


Netflix reported more than half of U.S. respondents to an online survey expressed willingness to exercise while ‘binge watching’ instead of sitting on the couch.5


“Whether you’re watching at home doing resistance exercises or taking your tablet or phone to the gym, Netflix gives people an extra reason to sweat. It makes your workouts easier and you end up looking forward to them more. If you can only watch ‘Breaking Bad’ when you’re on the treadmill, you’re going to find yourself wishing there were more hours in the day to work out,” according to Harley Pasternak, a celebrity fitness expert and The New York Times bestselling author.


I’d tend to agree.  I’d like nothing more than to help each and every client I work with directly, as well as everyone who reads the Paleoista blog, find their way to whichever type of exercise suits them and results in them actually looking forward to, and completing regular workouts. However, for some, it’s not as straightforward as choosing the type of exercise they enjoy and being able to partake in it.


While some know they love running, hiking, and yoga, and can then plan to incorporate each activity into their weekly schedule, others may be stuck in the mindset that they hate exercise for a variety of reasons.


We can all relate to trying a new activities and feeling a bit awkward or unskilled thereafter, and are then reluctant to keep up the activity to learn, adapt, and master skills.


I’ve also worked with clients who shared being haunted by memories of being the last child picked for teams back in grade school gym class, which to this day predisposes them to want to avoid exercise.


And how many people can you think of who force themselves to go to the gym and regularly engage in elliptical sessions with a telling expression on their face that they’re clearly not enjoying it?


Here’s the deal: Is watching TV shows during an exercise session the goal?  No, but perhaps, just as with folks trying to take their nutrition matters into their own hands and make small steps to being completely Paleo over a period of time, if watching some TV during a workout is going to get you moving, I’m all for it.


Ideally, this would be a transitional step and while someone is zoning out in front of the tube for some sessions, perhaps they’re also trying out a new Barre class this week, a new yoga teacher the next and ultimately finding a way to move that doesn’t involve TV.


I have fond memories of tales my grandmother would tell me about exercising along with Jack LaLanne’s TV program in the 1950s.  Perhaps he put it best even back then when he said, “people don’t die of old age, they die of inactivity.”6


Let’s get a move on, people!




[1] “5 Steps to Loving Exercise … Or At Least Not Hating It.” 5 Steps to Loving Exercise … Or At Least Not Hating It. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 June 2015.

[2] “Average American Watches 5 Hours of TV per Day.” NY Daily News. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 June 2015.

[3] “David Hinckley – Writers – NY Daily News.” NY Daily News. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 June 2015.

[4] Melnick, Meredith. “TV Health Problems: Why You Should Turn It Off.” The Huffington Post., n.d. Web. 22 June 2015.

[5] “Netflix Says Americans Are Willing to Exercise While Binge-watching.” UPI. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 June 2015.

[6] A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web. 22 June 2015.