Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Channel Your Exercise

“Although once upon a time, a single TV in a gym would have been a luxury, now it's odd not to find several sets and frequently a bunch of machines with their own personal TVs. Gold's Gym has recently introduced the idea of the Cardio Cinema, where movies play on a large screen in a darkened room set up like a theater, only with bikes, treadmills and ellipticals instead of cushy seats. Increasingly, gyms are also offering equipment such as Expresso Bikes, which have screens that riders can use to watch regular television programming or take a virtual-reality ride through a choice of environments (including outer space!). If that's what it takes to get the general population moving, Pete McCall, an exercise physiologist with the American Council on Exercise, is all for it. ‘The perception is exercise is work; it makes me sweat,’ he says. ‘So if we have to use TVs as a puppy dog, it's a necessary evil.’ Diane Whaley, a sports psychologist at the University of Virginia, says there are two goals for any exercise session: to be enjoyable and effective. And while getting engrossed in television seems to help with the former, it can take away from the latter. ‘You have to find out what will result in a good workout, not just going through the motions,’ she says. Although Costas Karageorghis, a sports psychologist at Brunel University in London, firmly believes that distractions reduce pain during exercise, his groundbreaking investigations of the effect of visual stimulus have him worried that television can be too great a diversion. ‘Watching TV while you exercise is such a distraction that it diminishes the quality of exercise. When you combine video with audio, it requires more from your brain,’ he says. ‘The very best thing would be edited highlights of athletes to inspiring music,’ he says, offering as an example ‘I Feel Good’ by James Brown coupled with carefully selected Olympic moments. And even though experts believe the trend toward more screens will continue, especially using new interactive technologies to give exercisers more game-like experiences, there's one part of the gym that everyone agrees should stay TV-free: the weight room.”


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