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6 Ways to Get in Shape While Watching TV

Keep up with your favorite shows without becoming a couch potato

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Don't just sit there! You can burn calories and build strength while watching TV. — Sean Murphy/Getty Images

The only statistics I've ever paid much attention to were my own, from my days as a touring tennis pro, and those were usually stats like rankings, titles won, serve speeds and other numbers we pros care about.

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But recently, I stumbled across a website,, which gave some fascinating Nielsen stats, noting that the average American spends 5.11 hours a day watching television, and that same average American will ultimately spend nine years of his or her lifetime in front of the tube.

I was pretty floored by those numbers, so I got to thinking: If we're spending that much time in front of a television, why not exercise at the same time?

It's the old "kill two birds with one stone" approach to making the most of our time: Watch what you like and get into shape. I know it sounds counterintuitive to watch TV and exercise at the same time, but honestly, gyms have been installing treadmills, stair-climbers, stationary bikes and other cardio equipment in front of televisions for years, so it is really nothing new. That said, if you've got some home cardio equipment that's been collecting dust, drag it out, put it where you can watch your favorite TV show, and sweat on!

For those of you who prefer to sit on a couch or chair while working out, here are six exercises I like:

1. Biceps curls (arms)

While seated, take a dumbbell in each hand, or a heavy book in each hand if you don't have weights. Flex your arms at the elbows and pull in an upward arc toward your shoulders, with the palms of your hands facing the ceiling and your elbows close to your waist. Pause for a moment to contract your biceps at the peak of the exercise. Lower and repeat the movement for 10 or more reps.

2. Hand grippers (forearms and wrists)

These little gadgets are great for strengthening your forearms and wrists, and I use them all the time for that reason. What's more, grip strength is a good overall indicator of how fit you are. In fact, clinicians have used grip strength to measure levels of fitness and performance in older adults. You simply grasp the handles in one hand and squeeze them together as closely as you can. Keep squeezing until you can't do another, then switch hands and repeat the exercise.

3. Trunk twists (side abdominals)

Sit with good posture. Bend your elbows and hold them close to the sides of your body. Slowly rotate your trunk to the right as far as you comfortably can, being sure to keep your torso stable. Rotate back to the center and repeat the move to the left. Do this 10 times, with two twists counting as one repetition.

Next page: Lift those legs! »

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