If you haven’t made (or stuck to) any January fitness resolutions, you’ve probably spent the past few chilly months hibernating and bingeing the latest true-crime docs, period dramas or fantasy flicks. 

Watching television has long been associated with anything but an active lifestyle. But with a bit of imagination and an understanding of some ‘workout theory’, then this stereotype could soon get turned on its head. 

Gawain Davies, head of training at Versaclimber UK and founder of Set For Life Fitness, has analysed some of the most-watched series’ against various methods of training to reveal which ones could actually enhance a workout, rather than cause it to flop.

(Even the iconic Korean show that spawned 2021’s biggest Halloween outfit trend could help you to raise your heart rate and break a sweat – from fitness, not fear.)

Conscious Watching 

Linking up television with a workout routine isn’t a completely new concept. Lots of gyms have TV screens on the walls, and it’s not uncommon to see someone streaming the latest Kardashian’s show while pushing pedals in a sports-luxe outfit Kim K would approve of. 

The key, though, is to understand the characteristics of your favourite style of working out – and to choose the show with themes and challenges that match. Forget mindless screen time, this is all about mindful watching, and moving. 

Studies have indicated that removing any distractions altogether and focusing inward on the rhythm of your breath or the sound of your feet on the treadmill might be the best way to boost performance. But by consciously aligning your TV shows with the type of training you’re doing and the goals you want to achieve, it could bring big benefits. 

Two Birds, (Lose) One Stone: 

Other studies from researchers in the US have backed up our findings. In a series of tests where participants were asked to take to the treadmill with and without TV shows, those that watched the box enjoyed their workout more – and when we love to workout, were bound to keep up a regular routine.

Instead of reducing screen time, repurposing it could help to motivate even those who find it hard to get inspired. 

Which Training Personality Are You?

Everyone has a different way they love to work out. While daily yoga is perfect for some people, twice-weekly runs are better for others. If you’re recovering from or are prone to sports injuries, then a low-impact full body workout might be more suitable for you than intense circuit training. 

There are a number of ways to train to help you achieve different goals or to fit around your lifestyle (and once you know your fave, you can find the TV show with matching themes and energy levels from our list below) 

View the full information from the BBC.

For cardiovascular health – continuous training 

Aiming to reach a target heart rate of 60% – 80% maximum heart rate, for a minimum of 20 minutes.

This isn’t suitable for anyone with a short attention span who might find the longer sessions boring. 

To improve a range of components – fartlek (speed play)

Another form of continuous training, but incorporating different speeds, intensity and terrains rather than one uninterrupted session. Professional players of any game such as football or netball probably use this style. 

For building speed, strength and endurance – interval training 

Periods of timed rest break up shorter bursts of intense training.  If you’re starting out on your fitness journey, this might not be the best – some people can find the intensity too challenging. 

To improve strength – weight training 

This is another form of interval training, but this time ‘intensity’ is measured by lifting heavier weights rather than short bursts of quick cardio. Don’t fall into the trap of losing your form while striving to lift those heavier weights, though.

To develop power – plyometric training

Fast, explosive movements encourage the muscles to expand and contract quickly, building endurance and power. This type of training is very advanced, so you should only start when you’re at the right level. 

For better mobility – flexibility training 

Increasing flexibility can help in all sports and activities. In day to day life, it can also help to improve posture, increase strength, boost recovery and withstand more physical stress. Many people don’t prioritise flexibility training, but there are many benefits if you do.

Increase endurance – circuit training 

Stations are used in this form of interval training, while the participant moves between them and completes different types of exercise to build both strength and cardiovascular fitness. 

Top 6 Shows to Enhance Your Workout

Best for: Fartlek (speed play training)

If there ever was a programme that could put things into perspective, it’s Squid Game. The South Korean survival drama, streaming on Netflix, took the world by storm in 2021 for its brutal and raw portrayal of people living on the edge.

If you’re looking for a TV show that’ll teach you about ‘mind over matter’, where characters have to hold their nerve in order to survive and bag the ultimate cash prize, then Squid Game should be your go-to.

Much like fartlek training, there are bursts of intensity – where your heart rate is bound to be off the chart – mixed with quieter, reflective periods that leave you thinking about how you’re going to overcome your next challenge. Why not complete the picture and don an emerald green tracksuit next time you hit the gym?

Characteristics:
– Changes in speed, incline and terrain are used to provide changes in exercise intensity.
– Aerobic and anaerobic.
– Fartlek training helps the athlete to improve the ‘mind over matter’ game.
– It improves your ability to put on a spurt in races and overtake competitors when tired. 
– Great for strength and endurance.
– Improves speed and race tactics. 

Best for: Plyometric training

Action, drama and comedy. Inspirational content for viewers looking to complement their martial arts classes with some practice at home. Viewers could learn how to increase speed, flexibility and core strength, improve endurance and reaction time, and add explosive power through the art of striking the leg, elbows and arms.

Characteristics: 
– High intensity exercise involving explosive movements.
– Suitable for well-trained athletes.
– Effective for developing power and building muscles.

Best for: flexibility training

Not only teaching viewers how to partake in team sports, Cheer guides viewers towards acing coordination and balance, strength and flexibility.

The docu-series follows the world of competitive college cheerleading; covering underdog stories, triumphs, lows and award-wins, as well narrating the difficulties associated with being an elite athlete. 

While cheer can be physically demanding, with bursts of tumbling and jumping, the flexibility you’ll gain through training will serve you well for those more low-intensity moments where you’re lengthening your muscles to point your toes and fingertips and holding positions at the top of a pyramid. 

Viewers will feel motivated to don their fitness gear, grab a crash mat, and maybe even rope other gym goers into starting a group routine…

Characteristics:
– Involves training the range of motion in a joint or group of joints.
– Flexibility training includes strengthening exercises to lengthen the muscles.
– Low-intensity exercises.
– Consists of strength, endurance and balance.
– Essential training for all athletes in sports and activities.

Best for: Circuit training 

Looking for a show that demands your concentration and focus throughout your intense circuit training workout? Look no further than the BBC’s Line of Duty – a British cop drama that tackles internal moles and cracks complex cases within the Organised Crime Syndicate (OCS).

The series’ heart-racing thrills and shocking left turns will have you gripped to each of your training stations; with almost every scene offering an exciting glimpse into the turbulent lives of the Anti-Corruption Unit.

Pretend you’re training up to be part of the Line of Duty team with jump ropes, push ups and squat jumps, and hop on a treadmill to run alongside Detective Kate Fleming as she tracks down another criminal.

Characteristics:
– This develops muscular endurance, strength and cardiovascular fitness.
– An interval form of training. Short bursts of intense activity.
– Stations are set out that train one or more components of fitness.
– The performer moves from one station to the next with exercise periods and rest periods.
– Circuits can be designed so that they are sport-specific.
– Requires a solid base of overall aerobic fitness before performing any circuit training of any kind.
– Heart-rate is constantly elevated. 

Best for: continuous training

Unlike interval training, continuous training demands that the participant does not pause or change pace in between exercises, making it tiring and often monotonous work. Although participants are able to mix up their disciplines in many ways, continuous training requires a minimum of 20-minutes submaximal work.

While a continuous training session might be more drawn out, split into 20-minute sessions, its lack of variety can sometimes lead participants to getting bored easily. So, if you’re heading to the gym about to take on the task, it’s a good time to pull out the big guns with your TV series of choice. 

You’ll need something entertaining and light-hearted; a show that grips you with laughter and distracts you from the tedious nature of the exercise. It’s equally important that the programme maintains its pace throughout and can track the duration of your 20-minute burst. US sitcom Friends hits the nail on the head. With a 20-minute run time for each episode, it’s like it was made to be your continuous training companion.

Characteristics:
– Minimum of 20-minutes submaximal work.
– Target heart-rate range between 60% – 80%.
– Swimming and running, cycling, walking, skiing/rowing or a combination of these disciplines.
– Work is done at a faster speed without changing the pace for long without any pause or break in between exercises. 

  • GLOW (2017 – 2019)

Best for: weight training

If you’re after that hit of nostalgia, 80s electricity and original girl-power strength, look no further than Netflix’s GLOW, a series about female wrestlers in America.

Whether you’re into heavy lifting, new to the game of weights or just looking for some good old fashioned ‘against the odds’ TV, GLOW will have you feeling like a titan of the arena (gym). Although the show centres around female empowerment, the entire series shows that with ambition, hard-work and determination, anything can be achieved.

So pluck up the courage, don your finest (and shiniest) gym gear and hit the weights or bench with the same determination. 

Characteristics:
– An interval form of training.
– Intensity is measured in a percentage of the most weight a person can lift one time and is known as % 1 rep max
– Time is structured in reps and seats with specific timings for recovery between sets.
– Huge range of possible lift combinations, free weights and body weight exercises. 

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