Sometimes, I see a published study and marvel at the approach taken by researchers. In this example, by a team of National Cancer Institute and University of Tennessee scientists, I have to applaud the practicality and their daring. Assuming that people won’t stop watching TV, researchers decided to compare regular outdoor walking programs with indoor stepping sessions (walking in place) performed during commercial breaks.
Can you watch hours of TV and still enjoy many of the benefits of walking?
In short, the answer is “Yes.” I don’t know if the researchers were surprised by their findings or not, but the sample was extensive and convincing: 47 overweight, sedentary subjects participated for a period of six months.
At the end of the time period, researchers saw positive benefits. Participants tended to eat less, achieved a better body fat-mass ratio and ended up with smaller waist sizes–and something else that was utterly fascinating was also discovered.
How the Benefits of Walking Make It to Regularly Scheduled Commercial Interruptions
I feel like lamenting the fall of civilization at times when we concede there’s no way to stop our addiction to television. So much beauty and magic exists in the outdoors that it’s hard to write off nature in place of this box in our home. However, everyone has to accept reality. If you feel like there’s no way you’ll renounce the TV in favor of walking for health outdoors, then get out off the couch when a commercial break arrives.
The researchers compared those people who walk outside against people who only walking-in-place during commercials.
Participants who walked during commercials had:
1. Decreased appetite. What types of commercials do you see on TV? Often, you’ll see pizza delivery offers, fast food ads and other things that get your mouth watering (for better or worse). If you rise and walk your way through these commercials, you’ll consider them unrelated to your best interests. Participants reported significant drops in their appetite when walking during commercials.
2. Better body fat percentages. Have you been shy about taking off your clothing in summer months? Do you feel insecure about your body with your spouse? It’s normal as we get older, but sedentary lifestyles lead to poor health and an unattractive physique. Walking during commercials helped the participants lower their body fat percentages. They ended up with less flab.
3. Smaller waist sizes. The benefits of walking extend from your lower body to your torso and within your respiratory system. Both outdoor and indoor walkers ended up with smaller waist sizes at the end of the six months. When you get those hips moving, they become trimmer.
From these findings, it should be no surprise, that when you are walking, even walking in place, it is hard to chow down on potato chips.
The researchers note that eating and watching TV go hand-in-hand, or they are what they call “complementary” behaviors.
So the next time you get the munchies, maybe you should go for a walk or if you are watching TV, walk-in-place during commercials (rather than making a dash for the refrigerator).
One Last Remarkable Finding
The most fascinating part of this “walking-in-place during commercials” study was that the participants actually began watching LESS TV! This is my favorite finding of this study.
The researchers could not find a reason for this occurrence. They speculate that walking during the commercials made people realize just how much time they spent in watching TV.
Regardless, I believe these findings might imply that walking, even walking in place, opens your mind and reminds your body of the better things you could be doing with your time. Walking during commercials helps you see the light!
Let’s Acknowledge Walking for Health Works Indoors, But…
I applaud those people who do walk during commercials, but I want to be clear: I don’t recommend walking indoors over going outside. Walking indoors is more likely to become dull and when boredom hits, it is hard to keep walking. Even if you choose to use a treadmill instead of walking in place, I still urge you to go outside now and then. In one study, people accustomed to walking on a treadmill walked less and got tired faster than those who walked outdoors. You actually feel less burn outside – even though you’re walking the same distances or farther!
Outside, a chaotic, fascinating world awaits your discovery. You can use the natural energy to get more out of your walks and make yourself happier at the same time.
My first choice is to get you walking outside, but when that is not possible or if you just want to supplement your TV time with something productive (instead of munching on donuts), I do recommend walking-in-place during commercials.
If you’re dead-set on watching your regularly scheduled programs, take a break when your show pays its bills with those commercials. Get up and walk your way to better health – all in two minutes or less.
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Reference: Jeremy A Steeves, David R Bassett, Eugene C Fitzhugh, Hollie A Raynor,and Dixie L Thompson. Can sedentary behavior be made more active? A randomized pilot study of TV commercial stepping versus walking. Int J Behav Nutr Phy Act. 2012; 9: 95. Published online 2012 August 6.