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Staying fit while watching March Madness or bingeing on Netflix

You can curl up on the couch for the first time this weekend to watch Season 5 of “House of Cards” on Netflix or Season 5 of “Game of Thrones” on DVD.

If movies are your living room thing, “Sisters,” “The Big Short,” and “Steve Jobs” are freshly available.

And college basketball fans will be able to practically set up residence in front of the TV for the next three weeks to watch March Madness tournament games, highlights and analysis – with favorite beverage and bag of junk food at hand.

But beware: passive viewing – whether by television, laptop or smartphone – “is the perfect storm for a poor diet and low activity,” said Jilyana Baumgarden, a personal trainer and group fitness instructor at the Southtowns YMCA. “Cholesterol builds. So does high blood pressure, and then you get blocked arteries and you’re a cardiovascular patient.”

Health researchers also have tied the practice to osteoporosis, back and neck pain, and mobility issues that make people prone to falling.

But here’s some good news: You can watch your favorite devices and do some moving, too. You also can snack right instead reaching in and out of a bag that lists a single portion size as a paltry dozen chips – or maybe less.

Here’s how:


Baumgarden and fellow Southtowns Y personal trainer Corey Pepero, both nationally certified and college-trained in health and exercise science, recommended the following six exercises to keep the blood pumping, muscles moving and brain better engaged during TV time.

Most hourlong shows include about 15 minutes worth of commercials, Pepero said, so two hours worth of TV watching includes enough time for the recommended minimum of 30 minutes of exercise each day. “Your activity doesn’t have to be 30 minutes at once,” Baumgarden said. “You can break it up – and the whole family can do it together.”

You can do all six exercises for 30 seconds each during a typical commercial break and repeat them during all commercial breaks. Or you can do up to 12 reps at a time for up to three sets and proceed as time allows. Level 1 exercises are modified and more manageable. If you have a health risk or physical limitations, check with your doctor beforehand, the trainers advised.

So get off the couch – and we mean you, too, lovers of the Bravo network show “The People’s Couch,” where viewers can watch other people watching TV!


Level 1

Face down on the floor, elbows up with hands on either side of your body. Keep your knees on the ground, hips forward, and slowly push up with your arms as high as you can go. Drop your elbows as far as you can, lower your entire body, including your hips, without touching the floor, and slowly raise back up. “Make sure you don’t leave your hips up in the air or drop them too low,” Baumgarden said. “You want everything in a nice straight line.”

Level 2

Lift hips in line with your shoulders as you raise your body using your arms. This time, only the hands and toes stay on the floor.


Level 1

Use a chair or the couch for this exercise. Put the palms of your hands at the edge of the chair or couch, extend your legs with your knees together and bent at about 45 degrees, to center your gravity. Drop at the elbows, keeping the elbows pointing backward. Gently lower yourself toward the floor and slowly come back up. “Make sure you keep your hips always going towards the floor matching the line of your torso,” Baumgarden said.

Level 2

Extend your legs out farther from the couch or chair and use the same motion as in Level 1. “Elbows are going towards the back, hips are staying toward the floor and you’re going to use the back of those arms to raise yourself up.”


Level 1

Start with your feet side by side. Step forward with your right foot and bend slightly. Most importantly, keep the right knee in line with, or slightly behind, the right toes. Keep your right shoulder in line with the right hip. Then step back to the starting position. Repeat with the left leg.

Level 2

Instead of stepping forward, step back with the right leg. This time, lower the left knee in the same line as you would during a forward lunge, keeping the knee above, or slightly behind, the left toes. Then step forward. Repeat by switching legs.


Level 1

Start in the sitting position from a couch or chair, stand up, watching that the knees don’t come in front of the toes, then sit down but stay nice and tall. Repeat.

Level 2

Do a squat away from a chair or the couch. Keep your feet shoulder width apart. “Drop down and stand up nice and tall, breathing out as you come up,” Pepero said.


Level 1

Do jumping jacks, raising your arms above your head as you widen your feet out at the same time, then come back to the starting position. “If this is too difficult for you, you can step to the side” without raising your arms, Pepero said.

Level 2

Do mountain climbers. Keep your hands underneath your shoulders. Bring your right knee up as high as you can toward your hands. Repeat with your left knee.


Level 1

Start face down on your knees, your hands under your shoulders. Keeping only your hands and knees on the ground, and your hips down, lift up and keep breathing as you hold this pose for 15 to 30 seconds. You also can keep your forearms down if needed.

Level 2

Keep feet together and hips down. Put the hands on the ground under the shoulders. Balance on your hands and toes for 30 seconds or a minute, breathing as you hold this pose.

You don’t need to be perfect or uniform with these exercises, the trainers said.

“Just keep moving,” Baumgarden said. “Something’s better than nothing. One’s better than none; two’s better than one.”

Pepero added, “You don’t need to be in front of the TV for two hours, either.”


Inside: Five reasons why sitting too much is killing you, Page 10

On the Web: Watch the six exercises above at

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