By Wayne Wescott, Ph.D., and Rita La Rosa Loud, B.S.
Most of us do not enjoy television commercials, especially because they seem so much louder than the newscasters giving us the latest news, weather and sports. Rather than turning down the volume, simple push the mute button and use the relatively brief commercial time periods to perform some purposeful muscular exercise. To make your television exercise segments more enjoyable and effective, we recommend purchasing a couple of medicine balls (2 to 6 pounds) at a local sporting goods store. Here are a few of our favorite medicine ball exercises for physically active commercial breaks.
First Commercial Break: Medicine Ball Squat and Front Arm Raise
Stand tall, holding the medicine ball by your front thighs with arms extended downward. Slowly lower your hips backward and downward to a squat position (thighs almost parallel to floor). At the same time, raise the medicine ball upward (arms straight) until your arms are parallel to floor. Return slowly to the starting position. This exercise concurrently works the hip, front thigh, rear thigh, lower back, shoulder, and arm muscles. Perform approximately 10 repetitions with controlled downward and upward actions, breathing continuously.
Second Commercial Break: Medicine Ball Squat and Arm Curl
Stand tall, holding the medicine ball by your front thighs with arms extended downward. Slowly lower your hips backward and downward to a squat position (thighs almost parallel to floor). At the same time, curl the medicine ball to your shoulders (arms flexed at elbows). Return slowly to the starting position. This exercise concurrently works the hip, front thigh, rear thigh, lower back, shoulder, and arm muscles. Perform about 10 repetitions with controlled downward and upward actions, breathing continuously.
Third Commercial Break: Medicine Ball Chest Press
Sit in a chair or couch with a pillow behind your back so that your hips are near the edge of the seat and your back is supported. From this inclined torso position, hold the medicine ball on your chest, one hand on each side of the ball. Slowly push the medicine ball directly upward toward the ceiling. Return the ball slowly to the starting position. This exercise works the chest, arm and shoulder muscles. Perform about 10 repetitions with controlled upward and downward actions, breathing continuously.
Repeat these exercises during subsequent commercials for additional fitness benefits, as well as for a mental break from the television set. As the exercise performance becomes easier, progress to a slightly heavier medicine ball to ensure further progress.
First Commercial Break: Upper Body Stretch
Since most of us tend to slouch while watching television or viewing programs on a computer screen, the following stretch may help reduce tension in your upper body. While seated (or standing) interlace your fingers behind the base of your head with elbows pointing out to either side. Notice how your posture instantly improves. Next, squeeze your shoulder blades together and hold this contraction for a few seconds then relax these muscles. Repeat 3 or 4 times. The tension between your shoulder blades and upper back muscle should let go. Be sure to breathe in as you squeeze your muscles and breathe out as you relax your muscles.
Second Commercial Break: Side Stretch
This next (seated or standing) stretching exercise initially starts in the same position as the previous stretch, fingers interlaced but this time, extend your arms overhead and keep your arms as straight as possible. With abdominals pulled in, lean slightly to one side stretching arms, shoulders, and the sides of your waist and ribs. This elongation of your torso should feel good. Hold this stretch for at least 10 seconds. You may repeat 3 or 4 times before switching sides. Inhale as you raise your arms overhead, exhale as you bend sideways.
Third Commercial Break: Low Back Stretch
To ease any pressure off your lower back, try this gentle stretch. While seated in a chair or sofa, with feet firmly planted on the floor and hands resting on each thigh, lean forward and slowly slide your hands down both legs. Go as far as comfort allows towards shins or ankles. Hold this stretch for 10-20 seconds. Since your head is down during this stretch, use your hands to slowly ease your body back up to an upright position to avoid getting dizzy. Remember to breathe throughout these stretches.
About the Authors
Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D., directs the Exercise Science Program at Quincy College and consults for the South Shore YMCA. He has authored 28 books on health and fitness. Rita La Rosa Loud directs the Health & Fitness Center at Quincy College and assists Dr. Westcott with their health-related research studies. For information on Quincy College fitness programs, call Wayne or Rita at 617.984.1716.