Turn Up Your Activity By Turning Off The TV


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  149 comments   :  20,663 Views

The topic of TV is a constant battle in my house. I would be happy if we got rid of the TV completely (okay, except when it's the middle of a season of Top Chef.) My husband, on the other hand, was a little too excited when we got our new flat-screen, big-screen, too much-screen TV. There are lots of good reasons to watch less TV, especially since the average American spends 5 hours a DAY in front of the TV. It's easy to assume that less TV might lead to healthier habits, since you'd have more time to exercise or cook a healthy meal. A new study shows that less TV might not change your diet or increase your exercise, but it could lead to an increase in overall activity levels.

The study, published in The Archives of Internal Medicine, tracked 36 obese and overweight individuals for 6 weeks. Part of the group had their TV viewing cut in half, while the others continued to watch the same amount as before. The researchers were surprised to learn that reducing the amount of TV didn't change calorie consumption or sleep patterns. But the group who watched less TV did get more activity throughout their day (outside of exercise), burning an average of 120 calories per day more than the control group. That might not sound like a lot, but over the course of a week that's like taking an 8-mile walk. In fact, the control group became even more sedentary, burning an average of 100 calories less per day during the study. Pretty significant, right?

This study is one example of how small changes can lead to big results. You don't have to exercise for hours on end or follow the "nothing-but-carrots-for-a-week" diet in order to see changes to your health and your waistline. Set small goals and take small steps each day toward a healthier lifestyle. Reduce the amount of TV you watch, replace one of those sodas with a glass of water, or take the stairs instead of the elevator at work. You'd be surprised at what can happen.

What kind of small changes have you made that have added up to big results? Has the amount of TV you watch changed since you committed to a healthier lifestyle?

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  • SUNSET09
    It's like anything else...if you remove it, we will find something to replace it with, a book , exercise is good, a radio and in this case, working out, talking with your kids about theri day and getting them outside with you. So many people use T.V as a substitute of a companion or just to have a background noise. Of course, there are still those coach potatoes and otheres who have to watch T.V. to have a conversation with others! - 1/16/2010   11:11:45 PM
    I soo need to do this. I spend entirely too much time in front of the tv. When i was living in NY i did not even plug in the tv for over a year. That was the best year of my life. I read everyday and went for walks everyday. It was great - 1/16/2010   10:10:02 PM
  • 97
    Watching TV isn't really a problem for me, and now the only time I really watch it is when I'm exercising; but I can definitely see how less TV would benefit someones health.

    The small change I've made since I've committed to a healthier lifestyle is to always exercising if I'm watching TV. I never watched that much, but when I did watch it, I wasn't exercising. - 1/16/2010   9:18:08 PM
  • 96
    Last year I got finally cut the cable. One reason is budgeting and the fact that it didn't gel well with my becoming debt free plan. Plus I wasn't going with Satellite because I didn't want to be stuck in a contract (had a really bad experience with a major vendor). Now another reason is I don't have that much time to watch tv. Not if I want to get 8 hours of sleep! In fact TV was one the reasons I was a self proclaim night owl. Sure I don't get to see some of my favorite shows, but I'm now (also happened last year) 30 lbs lighter and training for my first marathon (this year), so obviously my time is now spent elsewhere. Hallelul! - 1/16/2010   9:09:37 PM
  • 95
    This is a good one! I had not thought about how much less TV I watch now until you asked the question. I am surprised to say I watch a whole lot less then before I started this new healthy lifestyle. I have no problems choosing physical activities over TV, and I don't even miss it. Heck I didn't even notice I was watching less until you pointed it out to me! See, right now I am spending time I would normally be watching TV reading great blogs like this on Sparkpeople. - 1/16/2010   8:49:56 PM
    Most of the time I walk while watching tv. I only have two favorite shows, so I don't watch much. But I do try to get some exercise in while watching them. Movies too! - 1/16/2010   8:41:31 PM
    I love television - I could sit in front of it for hours and watch mind numbing programs (not reality shows).
    When I received a pay cut at work, the first thing I did was did what get rid of something I truly enjoyed: my movie channel subscriptions. At first, it was hard giving that up but now, a year later, I don't miss it. I find other things to occupy my time such as going to the gym, volunteering, and reading more books (*cough* "The Spark" *cough*). I still love my TV, but now I'm not obsessed about watching it. - 1/16/2010   7:54:44 PM
  • 92
    At our Fit Buckeye Fans team we have a challenge related to TV. the challenge is to list your favorite show and commit to exercising during that show. You can't feel comfortable watching the show without moving since you committed.

    Also Playercoach15 set up a challenge. Cite a habit and an action. I chose habit of couch potato watching TV and my immediate action would be to do ab exercises. ( I also chose my habit of jumping on computer with the action of doing exercise before I could turn on the com[puter.) - 1/16/2010   7:40:25 PM
    I am a TV junkie. I had a couplde of yrs of poor health when TV was one of the few things I enjoyed, but I have now decreased the amt of time I simply sit in front of the TV. I do have the TV on while doing chores around the house. - 1/16/2010   5:15:37 PM
  • 90
    I could definitely see how people become less active with more TV in their lives...we just got a new super fancy TV and our instinct is to veg out in front of it after a long day, especially considering how much we spent on it!!!

    However, I'm trying to be more conscious about using our TV for "good"...meaning that I try to pop in a couple workout DVDs or break out the wii fit! (so far, I've had limited success...) - 1/16/2010   5:07:00 PM
  • 89
    I have never been a person that watch much television from the start, so there has been no change for me. - 1/16/2010   5:03:02 PM
  • 88
    ComCast has on demand exercise programs and it helps me a lot - 1/16/2010   4:49:01 PM
  • 87
    I rarely watch tv before 6pm and then it is mainly to watch the news and a couple of favourite programmes. By cutting out daytime tv, I have time to exercise more and get my gardening and housework finished. - 1/16/2010   4:19:54 PM
    We went through a financial planning course this past fall and methodically decreased certain expenses that were not essentials. Initially, we cut our satellite tv plan in 1/2 - then after a couple of months, dropped it all together. The only tv we watch now is an occasional Netflix DVD. I found the time that I never thought I had at the close of each day. Normally, I'd get home from work or the gym - finish dinner, then chill on the couch for the remainder of the evening - now I have time to work on projects, take care of things around the house, I've even picked up knitting again (which for some reason I don't do well while watching tv) :)
    I've not missed it - the daily drone - I think I miss the local news least of all! - 1/16/2010   4:05:40 PM
  • 85
    I watch (or should I say listen to) more TV in the winter because I can't get out in my garden for exercise, but I keep my hands busy by doing needlework so I'm not tempted to snack. As long as I'm doing something with my hands, I can listen to the TV program and picture in my mind what is happening. Its kinda fun! - 1/16/2010   3:59:55 PM
    I have a similar experince but in reverse. The more active I get the less TV I watch. The last time I turn on the TV was to watch a DVD. To actually watch TV it has been months. - 1/16/2010   3:28:38 PM
  • 83
    I watch way too much television. I don't let it get in the way of my exercise, but I could accomplish so much more if I turned it off. - 1/16/2010   3:11:35 PM
  • 82
    One change that I have made since starting my healthy journey that I have been pleasantly consistent with is what I drink. I used to drink pop (soda) and juice but very little water. I now drink 6-10 glasses a day, and very little else except a daily cup of white tea and the very very occasional glass of soda (think Christmas or birthday).

    My tv habit has changed in that now, 90% of the time when I watch tv I either do strength training, cardio, or stretching. Just sitting watching makes me 'antsy', like I should be doing something else!

    cj - 1/16/2010   2:34:16 PM
    I never used to watch television at all, but since living with my partner, it's on more than I probably think. When we're watching a show together, I try to sit on the stability ball and do a few sits ups here and there. - 1/16/2010   2:28:05 PM
  • 80
    I watch TV occasionally. If there's a programme I like, I'll maybe watch it daily, for the half hour or hour that it's on. This is mainly cookery programmes.
    Other than that, I'll maybe watch TV while I do the ironing - but I'm more likely to leave the ironing till there's something decent to watch!
    An easy form of exercise without realising it is to be on your feet while you talk on the phone - even if you just stand there, it's better than sitting. I used to do that at work. At home, if I'm on my feet and on the phone - I pace. I should really get myself a pedometer - I'd love to know how far I walk when my sons phone :)
    - 1/16/2010   2:26:00 PM
  • 79
    I actually turned my TV addiction into a health(ier) habit as now I rarely sit on the couch and watch the tube, I use my elliptical and walk while I watch. I don't go fast and I am not working out, I am just active while watching. I feel like it's the best of both worlds for me. - 1/16/2010   2:22:58 PM
    I don't watch tv that much anyways. I have other things to do, like go out with my friend, exercise, read, homework, etc. If I do watch it a lot, it's at the end of the day anyways, which is four or five hours before I have to go to bed. - 1/16/2010   2:16:10 PM
  • 77
    TV watching is not an issue for me, since I don't watch it at all. But I am a fan of small changes, like walking to the post office instead of hopping in the car. Our rule of thumb is that we walk to anything that's less than a mile away. - 1/16/2010   1:41:12 PM
  • 76
    We didn't even own a TV until this Christmas - my dh got me a wii fit so we had to get the TV just for that - and that is ALL it is used for! - 1/16/2010   1:36:19 PM
  • 75
    I do my best to try to balance things. I use my DVR to record things I really want to watch and try to watch after I've completed my goals for the day. That way I don't feel guilty. Watching TV while using my stationary bike is also a great way to pass the time. - 1/16/2010   12:38:46 PM
  • 74
    I admit we watch too much tv at our house. And for the most part it is all crap! There are certain shows that I enjoy watching but the rest is just because the tv is there and on!
    One small step I started just this last week is to turn the tv off in the bedroom when I get sleepy. I used to fall asleep to it and rely on my hubby to turn it off when he came to bed. The sleep timer doesn't work so if he didn't turn it off it would stay on until I woke up and shut it off or until we woke up for the morning. I realized I wasn't getting a good sleep because I was being awakened by the TV and it is a huge energy waster.
    Now, if one day I can get it out of the bedroom! :) - 1/16/2010   12:34:30 PM
  • 73
    I agree with a lot of other posters here..........computer can be just as problematic as tv. We are in the electronic age, and so it is hard to escape all of the time suckers that are out there. I see LOTS of people obsessed with their I phone and Blackberry, and they are sitting on their derriere texting. It all adds up to less moving.
    I try to incorporate as much "pockets" of movement into my day as possible. I walk my dog,get up and move around my building at work, take the stairs....you get the idea. I do also do Wii Fit and use my punching bag. I figure every bit counts. - 1/16/2010   12:29:42 PM
    I watch a lot less tv now that I am physically more active. TV seems to bores me a lot more than it used to. - 1/16/2010   12:24:15 PM
  • 71
    I seldom watch television/can hardly find anything interesting or worthwhile - 1/16/2010   11:59:12 AM
    My fiance and I haven't had TV for over 3 years, it really does save time since we are less likely to get distracted. We are able to keep up with news and even some TV online. - 1/16/2010   11:51:43 AM
  • 69
    I essentially never watch TV, so this is kind of depressing to me. - 1/16/2010   11:45:11 AM
    Unfortunately, my other lifestyle habits are computing and reading so not watching as much TV probably wouldn't affect my overall activity much more :-)

    However, I only watch TV in the evenings/night so think I'll cut my computer time in half (morning) and also my TV time, see what that does! - 1/16/2010   11:36:57 AM
  • 67
    I LOVE to watch the news & informative programs,like Dr,Oz & The Doctors.. Other than that I'm on the Wii if I'm not working..;-) - 1/16/2010   11:35:24 AM
    Good article and I would add that the computer can do the very same thing if we let it! - 1/16/2010   11:17:15 AM
  • 65
    Top Chef yeah! Jen did you catch Iron Chef Whitehouse challenge? Saw some awesome veggies I've never seen before.

    Kids watch too much - but the computer and game systems are more of a danger. Once the kids are gone, cable will be gone too. Too much money, and too much garbage reality shows. - 1/16/2010   11:16:05 AM
    I started laying on the floor and doing exercises... leg lifts/ butt lifts, sit ups. - 1/16/2010   11:11:23 AM
  • 63
    I watched very little TV to begin with, but stopped it entirely as a way to give up snacking and because I simply lost interest in what was on there. I was simply watching it as an excuse to make myself a big, buttery bag of popcorn! It was like a Pavlovian response! Oh TV, time for popcorn.
    Now I have little or no cravings for snacks in between my meals. I am satisfied with what I am eating and it is balanced enough that it lasts without getting hunger cravings until my next meal. - 1/16/2010   11:09:35 AM
  • 62
    TV is not my problem, it's this darned internet that sucks up all my time!
    : / - 1/16/2010   10:58:27 AM
  • 61
    We do not have cable & only use the T.V. for workout DVD's & Netflix movies.
    You can watch a lot of shows online after the fact without all of the commercials.
    We do that a couple times a month. I do spend too much time at the computer though. - 1/16/2010   10:55:45 AM
  • 60
    It would not hurt my feelings if the the TV blew up. The computer, now that's my downfall. I try to limit my time to 1-2 hours, with a big chunk of that looking at SparkPeople. - 1/16/2010   10:36:00 AM
  • 59
    My Husband and I have ban TV & computer in our house from after dinner to our boys' bedtime. It makes such a huge difference on the family as a whole. We actually are having conversation with our 15 year old. We use the time much more constructionly!!
    I am so happy we did it!!! - 1/16/2010   10:21:38 AM
    My husband and I watch minimal TV programs. Usually when we watch TV, it's to watch a NetFlix movie. Other than that, I normally watch only 3 other shows a week and since we usually tape them and watch them later, that hour turns into only 45 minutes.

    I sometimes use my TV time to stretch. I have a homemade board to stretch out my calves and a mat for other stretching. It's a good use of time to improve flexibility or to work out sore muscles.

    We didn't have a TV for many years - the one we had finally died and we just didn't need a new one. When we got a foreign exchange student we broke down and borrowed a TV since that would help her with the language as well as introduce her to what her peers were talking about. When we moved into our new home, we got a TV free from the previous owner. That lead to getting a flat screen about a year ago, but we still rarely watch TV programs. - 1/16/2010   10:19:30 AM
  • 57
    I may not spend five hours in front of a TV (I only use mine for videos) but one can just as easily spend five hours on the computer. So what's the difference? Both require sitting, unless of course, you're Donald Rumsfelt, who stands at a tall desk, to use his computer. - 1/16/2010   10:17:16 AM
  • 56
    I was obsessed with my tv, but spark has helped me to divert my attention to my health. I still watch tv a lot. But at least 40 minutes of the watching is done on my treadmill every morning. - 1/16/2010   10:11:36 AM
    Great article. It's the little changes that can be kept for life that make a big difference in the long term. - 1/16/2010   10:10:16 AM
  • 54
    I think this article is right on the money. But I do know that you can use the tv to your advantage. There are some workouts on tv that you can use. I also do strength training 3 mornings a week in front of the tv. I lift weights as I watch tv. It makes the time go by and I get my workout in. - 1/16/2010   10:08:45 AM
  • 53
    I agree with the comments regarding too much time on the computer (getting Sparks points). Lately, I'm thinking "Why am I "huddling", for example. I am at SP less and less. It was great to get me started. Now, I have stuff to do (like walk, make good food, clean this darn house, pay bills,etc...just everyday things I have been neglecting. TV: we disconnected it 5 years ago, no regrets there. - 1/16/2010   9:58:00 AM
  • 52
    Like MRDPOLING I also keep the TV on while cleaning or doing chores, but instead of movies I keep it on the news channels. My husband on the other hand sits down in front of the TV and can sit for hours and sometimes fall asleep in front of it. When we move we will have a big family room and I am putting his unused exercise equipment in front of the TV instead of his favorite chair or couch! - 1/16/2010   9:57:04 AM
    I haven't watched TV in over a year and love it. I've now been sucked into the Internet which is decreasing my exercise time and I don't love that. I can sit down at the computer and before I know it 2-3 hours have gone by. What's a person to do? - 1/16/2010   9:48:34 AM
    I am actually better at around the house activites such as cleaning or DIY when I have the TV on. I put on a TV show or movie that is OK but something I probably couldn't just sit and watch and then I get busy. I've heard/seen so many good shows and movies that I otherwise would never have taken the time for. It's a win-win situation. - 1/16/2010   9:28:52 AM

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