Is Watching Cable News At The Gym Counterproductive To Your Health?

January 10, 2018  |  

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It’s common practice for many large chain fitness facilities to have televisions playing a wide variety of things all day. That includes sports, local news, entertainment and cable news. The latter viewing option, however, in today’s political climate, hasn’t been well-received at one popular fitness chain, so they’ve made the decision to stop airing cable news networks on their biggest televisions.

According to a piece by the New York Times, Life Time, which has 130 locations in 27 states, made the decision to remove CNN, Fox News and MSNBC from its large-screen TV options. Those are television screens that play all around the gym, particularly in the elliptical, cardio-centered areas. But the opportunity to watch cable news will still be available on the individual machines equipped with TV screens.

The policy took effect this month, and according to Life Time spokeswoman Natalie Bushaw, it was “based on many member requests received over time across the country, and in keeping with our overall healthy way of life philosophy and commitment to provide family-oriented environments free of polarizing or politically charged content.” It was announced publicly last week:

And while some members applauded the decision, some, like Maple Grove, Minn. member Bryan Sieve, who has been with his club for 10 years, are none too happy with the company’s move. He’s threatened to cancel his membership if the news channels aren’t restored by the end of the month.

“I’ve never seen anybody complain about this, none ever in our club,” the businessman told the Times. “Who are these faceless people that all of a sudden have huge sway over changing a policy at Life Time Fitness without member input, consent or even fair warning?”

By the statement alone, we can all assume which news channel Sieve can’t get enough of on the treadmill…

But as Bushaw made clear, it’s actually been a concern voiced by members from their many locations for some time.

“Suffice it to say, this has been a growing issue over years, not weeks or months,” she said. “Ultimately, we believe this change is consistent with the desires of the overall membership.”

And even though some online have touted the move as a form of censorship, members who appreciate the decision say it allows those who couldn’t actually avoid the barrage of cable news (since all three options were often aired on multiple televisions) the chance to exercise in peace.

“Best decision they’ve ever made! I hate seeing all the negative crap on the TVs there!” said a Twitter commenter on the matter. “Makes my workout experience stressful, not relaxing. To those opposed- You have smart phones – use them. Not censorship- just a positive and healthy way of life experience!”

Whatever the opinion of members, it’s a fact that a lot of the political news is proving to be more stressful than ever. The American Psychological Association’s January 2017 poll, Stress in America: Coping with Change, reported that more than half of Americans (57 percent) stated that the political climate we’re in is either very stressful or a “somewhat significant” source of stress in their lives.

“The stress we’re seeing around political issues is deeply concerning, because it’s hard for Americans to get away from it,” said Katherine C. Nordal, PhD, the APA’s executive director for professional practice, of the poll’s results. “We’re surrounded by conversations, news and social media that constantly remind us of the issues that are stressing us the most.”

And therein lies the problem. If we’re going to the gym to work on our physical fitness and to ensure that we’re of good health, doesn’t it also matter what we’re consuming and seeing while we do that? How can we only care about the work we’re doing on our bodies and not be concerned about the health of our minds? Many programs can provide us with stress, including our favorite sports broadcasts, but it’s true that the political news is something we can’t seem to get away from. It’s sitting in our news feeds on social media, brought up on many of our favorite websites, splashed on the covers of newspapers and magazines, and brought up in water-cooler conversation at work. If there’s one place that it would be nice to have a break from all of that, it should be in the space where we leave the day’s frustrations on the gym floor and clear our minds. And if you just can’t live without talking heads for the duration of your workout, well, that’s what personal handheld devices were made for. Because the gym is meant for helping you work up a sweat, change your body and improve your overall health, not to be your source of information on already oversaturated political news.

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