Habits of Fit People: Turn Off the TV

By , SparkPeople Blogger
You want to be a fit person, right? That's why I'm sharing my own habits for keeping fit and staying healthy in the ongoing Habits of Fit People series.

Here's one that works for me: turning off the TV.

Sounds simple enough, but most people I talk to aren't willing to give up the guilty pleasure of their favorite shows. I get it: TV is an ideal downtime, a mental and physical respite that we welcome at the end of a hard day's work. But besides freeing up boatloads of time that you didn't know you even had, there are plenty of other ways turning off the tube can help you get fitter and healthier.

Even for me, a person who enjoys exercise (most of the time anyway), exercising regularly and consistently is no small feat. It takes time, commitment, and organization. It involves making some tough choices, like waking up earlier than I'd like to or not following McDreamy and McSteamy's latest adventures (sad, I know). If staying fit were easy, we'd all be fit people. But in truth, the most common excuse we use for not exercising is lack of time. Where does all of our time go? We have jobs/school, social lives, and countless commitments, but many fit people maintain all of those same obligations and still make time for exercise. I have an idea for how they do it, because this technique works for me, too: They limit how much TV they watch.

When people tell me that they don't have time to work out or cook healthy meals, the first thing I ask is how many TV shows they watch each day. Too often we build TV (and computer) time into our days as if it's essential to our lives. When I encourage people to watch less television in order to find more time in their days, they react in unexpected and very defensive ways: How dare I ask them to watch less TV? Don't I know that they really like it?

I'm not saying you have to give up television entirely, although a life without TV can certainly be fun and entertaining. But I am asking you to take an honest look at how much time you could be spending wasting by basking in the glow of that screen every night. I bet it's more than you'd think.

I used to watch a lot more TV. But I also noticed a curious thing. The more time I spent watching TV, the less time I'd spend cooking healthy meals at home and exercising each day. Ever since I left home at the age of 17, I have never had cable television. Cutting that luxury saves me money, but it also pays me back with more time in my days. Fewer channels means less TV time because there is literally nothing on (and far fewer channels to surf through). Cut the cable or satellite service, and I bet you'll watch less TV overall and find more time to cook and work out. This has to be the number one reason I'm able to fit in daily workouts and home cooked meals into my busy life.

My co-worker Tanya, one of our healthy eating experts, once told me how she makes it a point to drink all eight of her cups of water each day before she'll allow herself to have an "extra" beverage like a soda. I thought that was an awesome tip. And the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I set the same little rule for myself when it comes to TV. I don't turn on the TV until I've exercised that day AND cooked a healthy meal. Try that and I bet you'll discover all the time you need to fit these healthy habits into your hectic life, too. You could use your favorite show as a nice reward for sticking to your goals, instead of a given in your day. At the very least, for the sake of your health and fitness level, set a realistic limit on the number of shows you'll watch each night. Can you cut back to just one sitcom? How about just an hour? The less you watch, the more time you'll discover, the less stressed you'll feel, the better you'll sleep, and the more active you'll become. Soon—and trust me on this—you won't even miss the TV!

How much TV do you typically watch? Do you think that people who watch less TV are usually fitter?