Fitness for Couch Potatoes (cont.)

"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 up."

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 beginners.

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.

Muscle Up

But don't stop there. You can do many types of strength training in front of the television, says Pat Woellert, fitness instructor at University Fitness at the University of Cincinnati.

Using resistance tubing or dumbbells (or even books, or cans of soup), do upper-body exercises while seated on a chair. Some to try:

  • Bicep curls
  • Overhead shoulder presses
  • Side arm raises
  • Front arm raises
  • Triceps extensions

Lying on the floor, do side-lying leg raises for the outer hip and inner thigh, with or without weights. Sitting up on the floor, use resistance bands to do seated rows (pretend you're rowing a boat).

To get the most out of your prime-time workout, do something different every day, suggests Lynne Brick, BSN, president and owner of Brick Bodies and Lynne Brick's Women's Health & Fitness in Baltimore. Fitness pros call this cross-training. The rest of us just call it variety.

"Do the things you like to do," says Brick. Perhaps a stationary bike on Monday, abdominal crunches on Tuesday, treadmill on Wednesday, jog in place on Thursday, hand weights on Friday.

To get started, try this TV-watcher's workout devised by Petras, which is good even for beginners:

TV Twist

Position:

  • Seated on the floor
  • Legs extended in V-position
  • Arms out to your sides, shoulder level