Exercise is good for you. You should do it every day, at least 150 minutes per week, so on, so forth, yada yada.
But TV is also good for you. Okay, so it’s not good for you, but many of us enjoy it and like to get in some TV time throughout the week.
The good news is this isn’t an either/or situation.
In fact, doing exercise while watching TV is one of the best ways you can multitask.
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Benefits of Watching TV While Exercising
As much of a bad rap as TV gets (and let’s face it, it ain’t good when we’re just sitting on our butts on the couch looking at it), it also does have some positive effects.
In few places does this prove more true than in your fitness routine.
Not only is it easy to watch TV while exercising (it doesn’t require much brain power), TV is a great distractor, making the time go faster, the pain less noticeable, and workouts last longer as a result.
People who watch TV while exercising also enjoy exercising more, which is essential to establishing a permanent routine.
Dangers of Watching TV While Exercising
Because TV is such a great distractor, it can be a dangerous distractor.
When your body experiences pain, there is always a reason for it, and not noticing or ignoring pain because you are focused on watching television can lead to accidents and injuries.
If you are training at a high level, you should always focus solely on your training.
For those of us who are just exercising to stay active and healthy, however, TV can get us through our recommended 2 ½ hours of moderate exercise per week.
And, if it works to keep you active, use it, I say.
Sure, we’d all love our own home gyms with TVs or living rooms big enough to accommodate full-size treadmills (not to mention the cash to buy them!).
But the reality is, most of us are using our living space for other important things.
You know, like sleeping and cooking and whatnot.
With that in mind, this article focuses on exercises (and equipment) you can do (and use) in your living room, ANY living room, no matter how small that living room might be, so you can workout while watching TV.
Let’s get going.
You may not be able to do push-ups or planks and keep your eyes on the flat-screen, but there are numerous bodyweight exercises you can do while watching TV that keep you upright and your eyes straight ahead.
A great exercise for building lower body strength, especially important as you age.
Has a huge impact since it works so many muscles, and there are numerous variations to increase difficulty.
You don’t even need any weights or equipment because you can do air squats.
Similar to squats.
Does a lot of work on a lot of muscles, especially the glutes.
Beneficial as both strength training (the jumps and arm movements make your muscles work) and cardio.
Though, to be fair, most of these exercises can be done at a pace that gets your heart pumping.
Can be done numerous ways – lifting to the side, back, front, knees up.
Engages joints and muscles (including the hip flexors) that often get neglected.
Lowering yourself off the edge of the couch or a sturdy chair with your arms requires you to support between 50 and 75% of your body weight, about the same as a push-up.
A slightly less dramatic arm exercise, arm circles will still work your shoulders and upper back.
Basically running in place with a little extra enthusiasm.
Just sitting, but without a chair.
Optional Equipment: BOSU Ball
A BOSU ball is a simple device that can be used with most freestanding bodyweight exercises.
It requires you to balance more while doing each exercise, increasing muscle engagement and fat burn.
Balance Board/Wobble Board
A balance/wobble board requires very little movement. In fact, standing still and keeping yourself upright is the entire point.
These boards are meant to be used simply. Just keeping the board even engages both the leg and core muscles.
But there are also exercises specifically designed for balance boards, based on board type.
Balance boards also have differing degrees of difficulty, depending on the type of board and how you use it.
You can also combine a balance board with bodyweight exercises, much like the BOSU ball.
Stretching and Yoga
Stretching and Yoga are much like bodyweight exercises when it comes to exercising while watching TV.
There are many moves you can’t do, unless you want to take your eyes off the screen, but there are also plenty you can do.
These yoga positions are ideal for TV watching:
- Mountain Pose
- Chair Pose
- Boat Pose
- Warrior I
- Warrior II
- Warrior III
- Tree Pose
- Basic Baddha Konasana
- Upward Facing Dog
The key to stretching while watching TV is to remain mindful of how far you are pushing your body.
A stretch is not an exercise you want to feel pain as you’re doing.
If you are watching TV while you stretch, make sure you are only using it to alleviate boredom, not push through the pain.
Optional Equipment: Yoga Mat
(You don’t really need any equipment to do yoga. But you might want a yoga mat to stay up off the floor, unless you have a much softer, better vacuumed living room than I do.)
Biking is one of the best cardio exercises you can do.
Not only is it a high calorie-burner (about 400 calories/hour for the average person), it’s also a great strength builder for your lower body that’s easy on your joints.
You probably won’t want to spin while watching TV.
It can be pretty hard to pay attention when your heart is beating out of your chest and your eyes are filled with sweat!
But many types of exercise bikes will provide a basic, high-quality workout while watching TV.
And many exercise bike manufacturers are making bikes so slim and portable, they will work in even the smallest of spaces.
Folding Exercise Bikes
The best folding exercise bikes fold up to a size just a little larger than your standard vacuum, while still providing stability and a quality ride.
They even make recumbents that fold, if you need something a little more comfortable that’s even easier on your joints.
Folding bikes aren’t just small when folded and stored.
They also tend to be smaller than your average exercise bikes, making them the perfect exercise bike while watching TV in limited space.
If you’re working with truly limited space, you can also use a pedal exerciser from the comfort of your couch or a chair.
They provide more of a workout than you might think, and are definitely a step up from getting no exercise at all as you watch TV.
Mini Elliptical or Stepper
Full-size ellipticals and steppers are, well, large, but you don’t need a full-size elliptical or stepper to get the same benefits as an elliptical or stepper.
Some of them, at least.
Mini ellipticals and steppers produce the same motions and provide the same basic workout as larger models. (Assuming you’re using them standing up.)
I’ve owned more than one model of tiny elliptical in my life, and they work well for me.
The main caveats with mini ellipticals is that they don’t provide the same arm movement and have smaller strides than full-size models.
For a short person, this can be a plus, but if you’re taller, you might find a mini elliptical somewhat jerky and have trouble getting your rhythm right.
The main issue with mini steppers is they don’t have as far to go.
That means you aren’t getting as much movement with each step.
The steps on mini ellipticals and mini steppers are more concentrated, but once you get used to the feel of them, they can actually lend to faster movements and provide great exercise in minimal space.
If you prefer to combine your upper and lower body exercises while watching TV, there are both elliptical and stepper models with attached resistance bands, giving you more bang for your workout buck.
Or you can wear ankle or wrist weights or do upper body free weight exercises while striding or stepping.
As long as you can pay enough attention to multitask safely.
Weightlifting requires some level of concentration.
Posture and technique always matter in exercise, but few places does it matter more than when lifting weights.
That said, weightlifting exercises are great exercises to do while watching TV, because the TV can distract you without being too distracting and weightlifting is one of those times you can expect to feel substantial discomfort during your fitness routine.
Equipment Needed: Free Weights
Optional Equipment: Weight Bench, Chair
Hula hooping is a killer exercise for your abs, but don’t be fooled by its waist-centric movement.
It also works your glutes, hips, legs, and arms.
If you have a finicky back (like me), hula hoop is a great way to loosen things up a bit, while also providing awesome aerobic exercise (300+ calories/hour).
Equipment Needed: Hula Hoop (Ideally. But nothing’s stopping you from doing the same movements without one.)
TV Exercise Equipment
It’s hard to say what’s the best exercise equipment while watching TV.
It really depends on your fitness level and what you’re trying to accomplish.
But these are some of our favorite limited space, but still highly effective, pieces of TV watching workout equipment.
Good for all-occasion bodyweight exercise improvement.
Balance Boards/Wobble Boards
Our top pick for balance board is more than just that. It’s a complete balance, strength, and speed program.
But it’s pricey.
If you want to up your training regime, this is the system you want.
If you want something a little more budget-friendly, the rest of these boards come considerably cheaper.
Whirly Board Spinning Balance Board
URBNFit Balance Board
Our Favorite Bikes for Small Spaces
You’ll find many brands of foldable, storable exercise bikes out there.
Many are the same bikes under different brand names.
Most of these bikes will prove effective enough (as long as they are well-built and sturdy), but here are a few of our favorites.
Our top choice has lot of utility for the price point.
It can be configured as an upright bike or a recumbent with built-in resistance bands for strength training.
Other bikes we like:
XTERRA Fitness FB150
Exerpeutic Gold (400-lb weight capacity)
The Most Space Saving Stationary Bike
Mini Ellipticals and Steppers
Like stationary bikes, you’ll find many brands of mini ellipticals and steppers that are largely identical.
I use this InMotion Strider With Bands. Six months of everyday use, and so far so good.
Dynamis Weighted Hoola Hoop
If some of these exercises seem quite basic to you, that’s because they are.
Just remember, any exercise you do while watching TV is some exercise and a more active body is a healthier body.