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?

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When I get home from work, my daughter and I go exercise for 30-60 three to five times a week. After that we cook dinner, eat, clean kitchen, then watch about two to three hours of TV--our time to relax. Report
Add the computer to the TV habit...It is even worse! I spend way too much time online...like right now, lol Report
Great tip. I've been trying to think of a way to reward myself on a daily basis for sticking to my weightloss goals. Think I just found it! Thanks. Report
I am currently trying to cut down on TV Time as I find that when I watch TV I am also snacking! It had become a habit to come home from work, fix dinner, then plop on the couch and watch TV until bedtime with commercial breaks used for trips to the kitchen for snacks. I am now trying to be more active in the evenings and if I do watch my favorite shows I make a point of using the treadmill or the fitness ball while lifting weights. Report
I only watch TV at night, maybe 2 hours 3x a week. Anything I need to get done, I do in the day time. I cut the cable because all those channels and nothing to watch syndrome. What a waste. I have found that I have more time to do the things I want to do instead. Report
I find that TV, aside from my football games, is something I do when doing other things. I haven't been a Sparker for very long yet, so I still find my scheduled cardio quite difficult to get through. I put my laptop on a little table next to the stationary bike, and watch one of my favorite shows on Hulu.com to get me through it. I'm extremely ADD, so it's quite an effective technique. I get focused on the story, and forget to concentrate on how much I dearly wish to get off the bike. I haven't missed any of my cardio goals! Report
Great blog, great tip!
For me it's not tv. I only watch it at night and I should be all done with my workouts by than.
For me it has to be cutting down on computer time. Now when I come on Spark I do it after my workout is done or no sparktime.
It's hard and I feel bad because I can't devote as much time here to my friends, but it really does eat up a lot of my free time and I should be doing something else.
So when I'm better and come back full swing, that will be my new rule to Spark by! Report
We rarely watch TV. Grew up without TV limited our kids TV but now we notice many people now including myself sit in front of the other electronic box for hours. For me-My computer -my spark takes a lot of my time. The only difference is i can honestly say it is quality time and my relaxation.
As long as the website is not having problems with my server, alas that is too frequent and frustrating Pat in Maine. Report
What you say is completely true! I haven't had a TV in years, because when I have one, I look at it. (Hooray, for those who are disciplined enought to keep it under control!) I'm not willing to be as drastic with my Internet though, but I have to be very careful. I could spend way too much time on SP! Report
i soooo need to do this for me and my son...since it's summer we've enjoyed the pool but now it's under construction so we need to find other things b/c my evenings have consisted of nothing but lounging in front of the t.v. ughhhh Report
It's funny that you should blog about this. We had DirecTV for years. Then last year our receiver broke. We kept forgetting to call and get it replaced. Now we save the $$ from that and have also turned off our local phone line (the DirecTV needed a land line for the replay recorder). We save so much money now. We use the flat screen tv we bought just before the receiver went out for exercises dvds or watch downloaded episodes.

I now work out in the mornings so anything we watch is just relaxation before bed.
I work out during commericals however, if you're going to turn of the T.V, get up and work out outside! You'll miss the opportunity when winter comes! There is Fit TV and it's nice to have! Get going! Report
OMGosh, I totally agree with this Blog! I had stopped watching TV for 3 years when I turned about 16 I started to watch it again and now at 18 I've completely stopped. Honestly TV is pointless, it's a distraction from real life and it's a waste of life! If you watch it for the news then DON'T! Read up on topics via web, you'll use up less time, get more information and won't succumb to bias media!
However I need to control the amount of time I spend on the internet... :( Report
I know I watch too much TV. But, as with others who've previously posted, I try to get some exercise in while doing so-like walking in place during commercial breaks, or lifting weights. Report
I love tv! I love the show BIGGEST LOSER and I love the discovery channel! I do "laps" when I watch tv. On commercial breaks, I walk all over my house and up and down stairs. (2600 sq ft). I usually can get in 7 "laps". That's alot when you consider an hour show is really only 47 minutes long due to commercials! Report
Great article, helpful comments. When I began this healthy living life-style I read a sparkpeople article about the benefits of a stability ball. As soon as possible I bought one and have since used it at the computer instead of a chair. That's my "TV;" no cable, just a whole lot of the world wide web! Report
I probable watch too much TV, but i also do some of my exercise while i'm watching. I will sometime lift weight while watching TV or jog in place while watching my favorite show. Report
I combine TV time with my cardio workouts. An hour on the elliptical goes by pretty quickly when I'm engrossed in Lost or Grey's Anatomy. Report
When my daughter started First grade (she is starting college next week!), I gave up our TV so that she could learn to read. We lived for 3 years without a TV. When I finally broke down and got one, it was strange; I hardly used it at first (ironically, she needed it to watch the news for school reports!). Then, I met my husband, and he LOVES TV. We watch every day, though he watches much more than I do. He TiVos a lot of shows and uses his computer to watch shows too. Right now, I'm watching the baseball season with him, and I occasionally watch HGTV, but mostly I stay away from the news (except the Weather Channel) and other programs - too depressing! And I'm in front of a PC 9 - 10 hours a day for work, so I rarely use the computer at home. Report
I like the idea of not watching any shows I want until I've already exercised! We live in a tiny condo and my husband often has the TV on when I get home, but it's generally not something I'm interested in. . . . I think I will start this week - use the fun shows as an incentive - not make them automatic :-) Report
What you say is true! I don't watch much TV, but I do spend a lot of time at my computer. My husband records his favorite TV shows and I sometimes watch them with him. I do resent paying so much for cable and finding there's nothing on I want to watch. Maybe one of these days we'll cut the cord! Report
I have noticed a cut-back in my TV viewing since "starting Spark." Most of what I watch now is The Travel Channel and... [gulp] the Food Network ;-) Report
"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."

I totally agree with this. I now rarely turn on the TV in the daytime. I prefer to listen to the radio; preferably NPR.

HGTV while on the treadmill at the fitness center - that's my favorite TV watching! :o) Report
We are going up to our cottage this weekend. We have no TV there and we really don't miss it. We have time to do other things and visit.
I agree about getting things done around the house. The TV can be a distraction, especially for school age kids. They need to spend more time with books and exercising themselves. Just like us adults.
I watch very little TV these days, and no offense to Hollywood, but I don't miss it at all. NatGeo, an occasional program on the travel channel and select Dr. Oz shows are pretty much all I watch. I'm really cutting back on the local news as well.

I miss working out so much more than sitting on my butt watching TV. I've had to cut back for a while due to health issues and I feel the same way I would if I couldn't brush my teeth - yucky.

Find an activity you really enjoy like yoga, an exercise class, hiking, biking, kayaking - something - and schedule it like you would an appointment.

You can live life or watch life - the choice is yours. Report
I'll be honest, I sit and watch TV and there are times where I'd definitely rather do that than exercise but it's all a choice. I don't think coming home to watch your favorite show a few times a week is going to make you overweight, but if you spend all of your downtime doing that, I can see how it happens. And honestly, I think people tend to EAT more as they are sitting watching TV and that's one of the big problems. Report
Not only do I think that people who turn off the TV are fitter, I think they're better educated. What are they doing if they aren't watching TV ? maybe they're exercising. Maybe they're reading, talking and socializing with friends/family, etc... In short, they're doing things that makes their lives better. Now, I'm not saying that watching TV can't be fun or educational. But, people do tend to watch a little too much TV. So, turning it off, wouldn't be a bad thing.

How much TV do I watch ? It varies. Some days an hour or two. On weekends, a little more if I'm watching the cooking shows.
I honestly don't have time to watch TV during the week unless I specifically make time. I do have the news on in the morning as I'm getting ready but I don't actually sit to watch it. What shows we do watch are typically saved for the weekends, but since I work out in the morning, I'm long done with my workout before I ever sit down. Report
I don't just sit and watch TV that much - while the TV might be on I an usually doing other things as well. I'm more of a multi-tasker..... Report
My hubby and I just recently canceled our cable and moved to a free setup that we run from our computer to our TV. It is the coolest thing ever and one of the best decisions we ever made! We even get to record TV shows in HD now, which is ironic because when we had expensive cable, we didn’t pay for the upgrade to HD. It feels so good to save $100 a month and I have noticed we also watch less mindless TV and just watch our favorite shows.
Here is something I have been struggling with though…I know that TV is a waste of time but mostly I find myself parked in front of the TV out of BOREDOM. When I get home from work, I exercise, clean, and cook a healthy dinner. After doing all that…what else is there to do other than watch TV/read/internet? My hubby and I don’t have any kids yet, which is probably one of the reasons we turn to TV for entertainment. I would love to hear everyone’s ideas because I have noticed that once I sit down in front of the TV, I turn into a zombie and get extremely tired.
It's funny, I already follow that advice. Yay! I usually go for a run around 7pm (in Florida that's the earliest I can go without having a heat stroke), come home and shower and then cook a quick, healthy meal, sit down and eat it and THEN I'm ready to watch a couple of my favorite shows. Report
Guilty. Report
I'm usually watching fitness shows anyway. Report
We don't have cables either, and we hardly watch TV. I completely agree: that's the first pastime people should probably limit in order to find time for more rewarding things. Report
I would do fine with less tv. My family loves the tv. I try to make this my computer time. I appreciate when I have time alone at home with my music or quiet time. Now I just need to make exercising a higher priority in my day! Report
I "accidentally" have watched **SIGNIFICANTLY** less t.v. this year. It really wasn't planned, but a by-product of less time, and I'm amazed by how much I do NOT miss it. :D And with the SP mobile application, tracking my food is possible while on the go (mutli-tasking!), so that helps cut down my internet/computer time, too!

Jocelyn Report
I exercise on my stationary bike while watching tv! Usually, abt 45 minutes to 60 minutes. There's room for improvement though, coz after cardio I watch tv & relax till bedtime - another hour. Can actually prepare meal for next day. Hv to get working on that one! Report
I watch tv at night but exercise in the morning... no point in watching morning tv Report
I've watched approximately 4 programmes in the last 10 months. The sofa was initially covered up with stuff as there was little free space when my partner moved in, and since we've moved house the sofa has stayed behind until once again we have space for it. Seating makes a huge difference to the enjoyment of TV. I certainly don't miss the TV. Can't think why I bothered with it mostly. Report
I don't have a television. So that's easy... Report
I watch mainly the news at 9pm, once in a blue moon a movie. Otherwise most programs bore me. I rather read a good book Report
Oh but i did do one thing when i was exercising daily. I would exercise infront of the tv. With my jump rope and my weights. But couldnt let go of TV :-) Report
Its a spot on article for me. I'm so glad you wrote this. I'm too much of a TV addict. After a tiring day the best relaxing means for me is TV. I can be infront of the TV for hours together. But I'm not addicted to the shows I watch. I usually just like to relax infront of the TV so I watch those shows on and on. So if i do have some stuff to seriously attend to i would go do tht if im not very tired.

I so agree with you. My sister did the same thing when she had to fit exercise in her routine. She gave up all her TV shows. And by now she doesnt watch any and thinks they are all just time waste.

Thanks for writing this. I will try to reduce the time spend(wasted) watching TV. Report
Unfortunately, my husband and I are big TV fans - but that's where a DVR can come in handy. I also watch on the treadmill since I joined Sparkpeople. The good thing is that the treadmill is being used 5 - 6 times a week! We probably watch 1 -2 hours a day. Report
I watch hardly any TV. Got to work on that "other screen" time though. The Internet is just as addicting... Report
This is a good article. I haven't watched tv since this year. The best thing that has ever happened was to change to hd for local tv. I watch my favorites shows online. I need to work on my online time though! Thanks for the tips. Report
I didn't realize that I also abstain from watching TV until I've exercised or cooked a healthy meal. I don't watch too much TV to begin with. I've been in school for 6 years and so I've had erratic evening schedules. I usually turn on the Science Channel or catch some documentary. I think I'm better for not being into TV shows that much. I know there are some good ones out there but I'm not missing them. Report
We haven't watched TV in a long time. We have a family gym membership and 2 nights a week hubby takes the kids in swimming while I do a workout. When I've finished, the kids join me in the cafe and use the free computers while I read and hubby does his workout. On a weekend we all play around in the pool. We don't miss the TV, we never even think to put it on! Report
I hung a flat screen TV on the wall in front of my home treadmill. Now I only allow myself to watch certain shows when I'm walking on my treadmill. I get the best of both worlds. Report
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