One piece of exercise equipment is becoming so popular that some people
can't bear to face a workout without it: the television. Just as many people
are glued to their TVs at home, so they are at the gym, intently focused on
CNN or American Idol.
Almost every gym offers some form of TV
entertainment and the more magnificent the club, the better the options. Big
complexes feature individual screens integrated into cardio machines
allowing exercises to watch whatever they like. Others have banks of wall or
ceiling mounted screens, some offering headsets so users can listen to
More clubs are buying or contemplating buying equipment with integrated
television screen, and many even have televisions in strength training
areas, where concentration -- especially around free weights -- is critical.
Wireless headsets are now available, allowing gym members to wander while
listening to one of 14 digital audio programs. Soon there may be video Ipods
able to interface with a club system. eventually, members would be able to
select from a bank of movies and programs and view between those and
wellness data such as heart rate and blood pressure.
Fun, sure, but this may not be the best way to wade through a workout.
Survey the cardio areas of a gym and invariably a few people will be
engrossed in a show to the point that they going through the motions of
exercising -- slowly pedaling the trainer, inching along on the treadmill --
and barely sweating or breathing hard.
Certainly, it is more productive than napping, most fitness experts
agree. But it may sell exercisers short, making them wonder why they haven't
seen significant improvements in their bodies after weeks or months at the
gym. The reason -- their workout is lackadaisical and they are not
exercising at the appropriate level.
But clubs need to stay competitive with the market and please members,
many of whom are tech-savvy and have the latest gadgets such as mega-screen
plasma TVs and video cell phones. More fundamentally, exercise, for many,
isn't too exciting -- especially for someone trudging along monotonously on
a cardio machine. One of the main problems is to keep people in the program,
club owners say and anything that attracts people to an exercise program is
helpful. even low levels of physical exertion can have significant health
benefits, say academics and researchers. It helps to lower blood pressure,
reduce body fat and improve cardiovascular function.
Studies do show that television can help people with an exercise program.
Those who are new to exercise need something to divert them from the pain
and discomfort, at least in the first six months when dropout rates are
high. But for the more experienced exerciser or someone whose weight loss or
fitness goals are more defined, there may be fewer advantages to constantly
fixating on a TV screen. Ideally, people ought to be in tune with their
bodies while exercising, staying aware of their intensity level, heart rate
Beyond the first six months people should be more conscious of how long
they are exercising and at what intensity and should build adherence firs
before building physiological changes.
A barrage of stimuli from television could certainly interfere with the
concentration required for more complex workouts. The brain can handle two
tasks as long as they are controlled by different areas. But combining two
cognitive functions like monitoring heart rate while keeping up with a
football game could cause problems as the person is engaging in activities
in the same domain in the brain.
Growing technology is going to provide more distractions, not fewer. That
may not be such a problem for people in their 20s who are used to constant
distractions but for the older generation, this would be harder. Thus, other
alternatives ought to be considered apart from they gym such as walking or
jogging or even sports.