Why Watching Reality TV While You Run Isn’t the Best Idea
When I was a freshman in college, it seemed that every time I would get on the treadmill, Rich Kids of Beverly Hills was on TV.
“How useful,” I thought to myself. “What better motivation to get fit than to see a bunch of hot girls wearing Louboutins and driving Lamborghinis?”
Although I love running on beat to some motivational tunes when jogging outside, when I was stuck in the gym it was way easier to distract myself from the monotonous treadmill with some form of entertaining television show. If a longer show like Pretty Little Liars was on, I would leave the gym feeling great knowing that I had been on the treadmill for an entire hour.
Unfortunately, this mindset may not be the cure to your winter body blues. It turns out that the brainpower it takes to process a movie might be detracting from your exercise.
University of Texas professor John Higgins, MD, explained to Outside why watching TV while you work you is not that great an idea.
“Attending to, following, and processing movie content demands lots of cognitive storage,” he said, “which depletes reserves that would otherwise be used to workout vigorously.”
Of course, if your two options are sitting on your couch and watching the latest episode of The Bachelor, or heading to the gym and watching it while running, definitely go with the second option. But if you’re trying to decrease your mile time, or trying to up the intensity of your workout routine, you may want to ditch the distraction for some music instead.
Higgins also cautions about the loss of a psychological benefit of exercising, otherwise known as that “clearing your head” feeling you have after a long cardio session.
“Exercise can often help clear your mind and help you solve problems,” he said. “If you’re now focused on the movie, you may lose that valuable benefit.”
Before you swear off of any visual stimulation while at the gym, note that Higgins does mention some positives from working out while watching. In fact, many gyms have recently constructed “cardio cinemas” which are essentially a movie theater that has replaced red-plush seats with cardio machines.
These cardio cinemas may not be populated with marathon runners and professional weight lifters, but they’re a perfect excuse to get your ass to the gym. In fact, if you tell yourself you’ll only watch TV while exercising, you can cut your procrastination habit and replace it with a new fitness goal.
Binge-watching while working out may put you in a cardio rut, but it’s certainly better than laying in bed all day with your laptop. If the latest episode of Teen Wolf is what you need to get some cardio in, so be it.
Just be wary if you notice that your intensity is lagging. Like anything in life, the best way is by doing things in moderation. If you’re worried about turning into a movie-watching-ellyptical-junkie, limit yourself to the gym TV twice a week, and stick to your headphones the other days you hit the gym.