How You Can Get into Shape While Watching TV

TV. (Photo courtesy of the Consumer Product Safety Commission)

Welcome, beginners to fitness, or those who need to get back in shape. This one is for you.

A majority of the emails that I receive are from young men and women who need to lose weight in order to qualify for the military height/weight standards as well as get in shape to meet the physical standards. Many of these folks need to lose 40 pounds before being eligible to join. For those who are in this category, check out the related articles that will help you on your fitness journey:

Help Me Lose 40lbs  Prep for Bootcamp  

But this week's email comes from a retired military member who has been ill and sedentary for too long. 

"I am currently trying to recover from bronchitis. It has lasted for 4 weeks so far. My doctor doesn't want to give me any more antibiotics, which I guess is best, but I'm tired of being cooped up and in and out of bed. How do I start exercising after being so sedentary? Also I was interested in your mention of using commercials on TV as time to exercise. Do you have a plan for that?"

She reminded me of my first program I wrote called the TV Watcher's Workout. It is a published book and still in print, but after writing a program that I thought would appeal to the masses, I soon realized that unfit people do not necessarily buy fitness books. 

Needless to say, this book (which works) did not sell many copies. But it is a great way to get started if you have been ill, sedentary for decades or a young kid who needs a little exercise. You can find it on, and if you are interested. 

The theme is to take commercial breaks and do exercises. The commercials last 2-3 minutes normally and total about 20 minutes in an hourlong TV show and enables beginners to recover fully from exerting themselves. This is a first-step routine that enables you to go gently into a routine and learn technique over time, but soon it will be too easy and you have to take a next step to increase time, duration and intensity of your workouts.

For those of you who are advanced, try performing PFT exercises for 1-2 minutes each commercial break. It is tough. I once did 1,000 push-ups during the commercials of a football game and felt it the next day, too.

More Weight Loss Tips

As far as recovering from an illness in the chest, you have to be careful and make sure you are still not congested or coughing when active, as it can overwork your heart and lungs. I would start very easily with two- to three-minute bouts of stretching, knee push-ups, squats, and abdominal and lower-back exercises, as in the free "45-Day Beginner Program" (PDF). Add walking for five, 10, 15 and 20 minutes if it does not hurt your lungs.

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Good luck with getting started again on a routine. Just start off with baby steps if recovering from serious chest congestion and do not bite off too much, too soon if starting a weight-loss program.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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