The Binge TV Watchers Workout? Yes, Really.

Wellbeing Tips
June 17, 2015

Can you really watch your favorite series and get fit? Our writer says, yes, she’s actually doing it with the help of a new season of Orange Is the New Black and a Withings hybrid smartwatch on her wrist.

Editor’s note April 2020: This article is about a series that is now done, and the look of the Health Mate app has been updated since. But with people now staying home to stay healthy, we stand by the advice on how to binge watch and move, below.
Do you love binge TV viewing? When Netflix or Amazon drops a whole series in your lap and says, “go!” do you jump on the couch, let the good times roll and end up at work the next day looking like you got in a nasty fight with an alley cat?
Yup, that’s how these things usually go. But I swear I’ve found a better way so you can enjoy great entertainment and also get in your recommended 10,000 steps a day. I’m currently getting fitter while watching my favorite women-in-prison drama — and who knows, maybe you can too?
Here are some caveats before we start:

  • I’m not a doctor, and you should always check with your doctor before you start any exercise program.
  • I’m not a fitness instructor. I’m a writer with a writer’s body that I’m trying to get into better shape.
  • This is working for me and I love it, but I make no claims to if it can work for you.

Here’s some encouragement before we start:

  • You don’t need any pricey gym equipment.
  • You don’t need any “look cool at the gym” clothes.
  • Heck, this is done in the privacy of your own home, so maybe you don’t need any clothes.

Marathon viewing is an oxymoron

Ahhh “marathon viewing” — it’s exhausting, but unlike an actual marathon, you’re usually just growing roots on your couch.
I start at 8AM and sit and write all day. Then I often need to ferry my kids to their activities, or make them practice piano, or make them dinner. Actually I don’t know why I’m saying “or” — I usually must do all of these things. The weekends were and are my only time to run around outside, go swimming and take long walks.
That doesn’t make much time for exercise. Of course I felt like I was running around a lot because I was so busy.  I was sure I was pretty active.  Not that I thought I was in tip top shape, but I felt so tired at the end of the day, it seemed like a signal that I wasn’t sedentary. I sure felt like Ms. Always Running Around.

Activity tracking wake-up call to action

Just before I started at Withings I strapped on one of their activity and sleep tracking watches and learned the harsh truth: I was becoming a serious soccer mom potato. My activity dial was staring me in the face. And almost every weekday I was averaging only 25% of the exercise I should be getting just to stay healthy. Ooof. Not good.
I thought about getting up earlier. But the only time I get to read, catch up with friends or just spend time with my husband is after the kids go to sleep. Getting up earlier is not an option. Hats off to any moms who can get up before the roosters, but I’m not one of them.
I thought about going out running at night. But I don’t want to do it alone. On the series House of Cards we see Claire and Frank Underwood frequently go out running together at night. But they have no kids and a Secret Service detail following them. This is why reality is so sticky.
And this is why TV watching was not on my to-do list. I really enjoy TV and film. Many of my friends and family work in TV and film. But I was smart enough to know that staring at a screen after a day of staring at a screen is a bad idea. We all know TV is about zoning out, right?

Desire to see OITNB + Withings = Awesome

OK so flash forward. I’m working at Withings and not getting enough exercise but I really seriously want to see the new season of Orange Is The New Black. It’s totally entertaining. Everyone is talking about it with anticipation. The comedy is snappy, the drama gets serious, and I love seeing a slew of amazing actors who look like real people. And not to brag, but I’ve actually hung out with one of those excellent actors in real life, which is always a bonus.

It’s night. I am stuck at home (again). I am itching to see the series but refuse to sit on the couch. Problem is: I don’t own a treadmill. The good ones that you can run on are all really pricey.
Then I wonder: Can I jog in place and make my steps goal?
It seems too simple. But I try it. I start to work up a light sweat and after five minutes I look down and the little activity dial on my Pop has budged.
I think: Whoa. I can do this.

It’s time to start the music, it’s time to light the lights

I put on the first show of season 3, I start running in place and dancing to the excellent theme song “You’ve Got Time” by Regina Spector.
I’ve watched the first two seasons already, but suddenly, as I’m running and watching, one of her lyrics jumps out at me:

“Taking steps is easy. Standing still is hard.”

Oh girl, ain’t it the truth, I think.
The show ends. I’ve run a lot of it, but sometimes I’ve just paced around the room (much like a lady prisoner in the yard) to get a break. Sometimes I danced along with the show when they had music. I didn’t sit once; I did see the show. I probably looked ridiculous. But I was glowing and planned to shower before bed anyway. And then I looked at my watch’s activity dial…
I hit 100%.
Ten thousand steps before midnight, when my watch would set me back at zero.
There’s a screenshot for proof — bam!
My phone and the Health Mate app congratulated me for making my goal.
Cue: High-fives to myself for being awesome, for enjoying myself, and for getting my writer rump moving.
Then I let the next episode play on… I’d earned it and was going to earn more activity while seeing what happened next.
Now, I’m all in. I’m ready to binge on the season when I can, move my bum and not feel “trapped trapped trapped” by the cage of my daily obligations.
And finally a special bonus video… you know you want to hear the OITNB theme song.  So here it is:

* I linked iOS, but never fear, there’s Health Mate on Android too
Show images from Orange Is The New Black Official Facebook page