Weighty matters

Recently, obesity has been in the news - and not in a good way, either. All sorts of people have been inveighing against Americans' en masse move from regular fit, to relaxed fit, to easy fit, to just plain doesn't fit and get a new pair. Government, boldly leaping into the discussion as is its wont, intrepidly passed legislation to ensure that whatever the consequences of this trend will be, fast food companies won't get sued for it.

Though I'm not a big fan of outlawing entire classes of lawsuits, I think that we have to take personal responsibility for our behavior. So you can imagine my horror when I discovered, reading an article in my alumni magazine, that doctors claim that while there are lots of behaviors that aren't exactly top-drawer, obesity-wise, one in particular stands out: the doctors found in a study that "TV watching is far more likely to lead to obesity ... than any of the other sedentary behaviors." In fact, the doctor authoring the study called prolonged TV watching "a major public health hazard."

I am, of course, eminently comfortable with any and all body types my readers happen to have. But I certainly don't want to spend my days thinking that my passionate advocacy of, say, "Wonderfalls," might in any way contribute to the slightest bit of discomfort for anyone.

Now, some might say the solution is obvious: watch less television. But let's be honest: am I ever going to tell anyone to watch less television? So, in the parlance of the entertainment industry, I have to go another way, and here's what I realized, in a flash of insight that made me leap to my feet, spilling my heavily-buttered and salted popcorn everywhere: why not watch your favorite shows and exercise at the same time?

Herewith, then, a few helpful suggestions to balance your physical fitness with your television viewing:

1. Re-enact scenes from "24" during commercial breaks, making sure, first, that you remove all breakables from the living room and, second, that any weaponry you use is unloaded.

2. Repeat during "The Apprentice": "If I don't do 50 pushups by the end of the show, I'm the one who'll end up in the boardroom." Then do the 50 pushups, or fire yourself. There's no room for wimps here.

3. When Clark Kent uses his super speed on "Smallville," try to run around the room and catch up with him.

4. If he's too fast for you, then try to catch up with the White House staffers on "The West Wing." Once you manage that, try doing it while lifting heavy briefing books and files, and while reciting meaningless facts and figures in a loud voice. Not so easy, is it? Bet you have more respect for Josh and Toby now!

5. This one's a bit more complicated. Pick a sitcom that you find unwatchable (for me, "Whoopi," but you make your own choice.) Any time the laugh track howls at something that isn't the least bit funny, five sit-ups. Of course, this means you have to watch the show, but that's the price you pay.

6. Don't use snack foods for eating; use them for throwing at presidential candidate of choice when he says something you regard as an out-and-out lie. (Plus, cleaning the screen will be a nice workout, too.)

7. Print out all Internet materials related to new media darlings from new series of American Idol, America's Next Top Model, Average Joe: Adam Returns, and Survivor All-Stars. Use vast stacks of paper as free weights.

8. Play classic drinking games with classic TV Land shows, like tracking the number of times someone says "Hi, Bob," on "The Bob Newhart Show," only instead of "drink", substitute "do 25 jumping jacks."

9. Finally, go for a jog outside during your favorite show - and carry your television with you, watching all the time. You'll get that special glow that comes from being super-efficient. Two things to remember: a) watch out for traffic; b) extra-long extension cord.

Happy exercising. I'll be back as soon as I get some Windex; the administration officials have just been on "Meet the Press" talking about weapons of mass destruction.

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