Cardio Exercises YOU Can Do While Watching TV

Published by Jason Narog on

Cardio in Living Room

Thanks to technology and innovation there are a ton of cardio machines on the market today you can use while watching TV. And thanks to technology the definition of “television” is pretty loose these days. You can watch TV on your smart phone or computer these days. So let’s establish some definitions before we jump too deep down this rabbit hole – television is going to be something in your living room and cardio exercises are going to be bodyweight routines or small, portable devices that don’t clutter your living room.

If we didn’t make this distinction then I could just suggest you go jump on a rowing machine, treadmill, elliptical, or exercise bike and be done with the article. But that’s not why you’re here and that’s not what I’m going to suggest to you.

Portable cardio devices to bring into the living room to use while watching TV

Under the desk mini portable exercise bike

This is why we established some ground rules. This exercise bike is tiny and can be easily stored away when not in use. And you can take it with you to your desk job to use, granted your desk is set up correctly for it. They’re cheap (under $50) and I bought one to use while at work typing. Your milage will vary with this thing depending on what you’re buying it for, but it can work both your arms and your legs while your sitting on the couch watching an episode of Friends.

Ab Wheel / Ab Roller

You can totally use an ab roller while watching TV, just remember to breathe while you’re using it. Breathe out as you start to roll out and breathe in on your way back in. You’ll want to be engaged and tight while rolling out so make sure you’ve breathed all the way out before you get to your end range. You want a fully engaged core to protect your entire trunk region.

What’s funny here is I found 2 “specialists” on YouTube describing “how to breathe on an ab wheel” backwards from eachother. I’m going to take the concept I learned from StrongFirst, you exhale sharply when kettlebell swinging / shoulder pressing / squatting so you can create tension in the trunk to protect your spine. We’re applying this same concept to the ab wheel. Breathe out when rolling out, breathe in when rolling back to your body. Ironically Google was pulling the wrong information for their snippet too.

This one might not totally fall into the “cardio” bucket but you can definitely do this while binge watching the latest Netflix show.

Core Sliding Discs

Want to get some extra glide into your core workouts? These sliding discs will do the trick. You can pull off things like mountain climbers without lifting your feet off the ground. Just slide forward, slide back, rinse and repeat. Or stick them under your hands to work your shoulders.

Jump Rope

Your distance will vary based on your ceiling height as to whether or not you can get away with a jump rope inside the house. If you’ve got the ceiling height and you don’t have downstairs neighbors then jump around with a jump rope. If you are in an upstairs apartment then please ignore every jumping suggestion I have. I don’t want you to upset your neighbors.

Band Pull Ups / Leg Lifts

This one is going to assume you don’t have an open concept living room and have some sort of doorway within eyeshot of your television set. Go get a doorway pull up bar and some assist bands so you can get more reps in. We are doing an article on cardio right? The assist bands will let you pull yourself up and down relying less on dead hang strength. Cardio routine here, not max strength day.

Once you’re done with pull ups you can move on to leg lifts / knees to chest or any other core routine you can possibly think of that involves hanging from a bar.

TRX Anything

The TRX system comes with door anchors so assuming you have a door you can shut (maybe we turn this one into watching TV in a bedroom) then you can put a TRX suspension trainer in your house and go to town.

Kettlebell Anything

I’m including kettlebells here but you could also toss free weights, sandbags, and steel maces into this category as well. They can all be brought into the room and removed without a lot of hassle. Yes, you can kettlebell swing while listening to TV. You won’t be able to mindlessly watch TV while swinging (especially if you’re maintaining a neutral spine), but you won’t miss too much of the story.

Cardio Exercises that DON’T Require Equipment You Can Do While Watching TV

Jogging / Running in Place

There are a million variations you can do here. High knees, butt kickers, regular sprinting, stationary legs while rapidly moving the arms, I mean the combinations are endless. The goal here is to elevate the heart rate in whatever manner you’d like. You can even skip in place. Just move that body in some sort of “running” pattern.

Frog Hops / Jump Squats

This is another exercise where there are going to be a variety of  combinations for you to perform. If you’re not comfortable with squatting you can always squat up and down onto the couch. If you do know how to squat properly then you can start incorporating some power into the movement. The goal is to explode off the ground and to land softly. Your heart rate will increase with these power moves.

Lunges / Jumping Lunges

Same idea as with the squat, learn the proper movement mechanics behind this and then add some explosive power behind it. You can lunge in place going either forward or reverse or (if you have the space) traverse across the room. Add some jumping and soft landings into the mix when you’re ready.

Push Ups / Explosive Push Ups

Being that you’re in the living room the couch or ottoman can easily become an additional tool in your fitness arsenal. Change up the angles on your push ups by either placing your hands or feet on furniture to make the exercise easier (hands on furniture / feet on floor) or more difficult (feet on furniture / hands on floor.) Add explosive power, do it on your finger tips, or even switch it up to one arm / one leg push ups to vary up the routine.


Grab a chair or use your couch / ottoman to throw some tricep dips into the equation. Shift your legs / knees around on this one to change up the intensity. Bent knees can help alleviate some of the weight compared to straight legs further away from the body.

Jumping Jacks

Remember that exercise from P.E. Class? Arms start down by your sides with your legs together then your legs jump out and your arms go above your head. Do that.

Animal Crawls

Bear crawls, crab walks, alligator crawls, etc, etc. There are entire courses covering a wide variety of animal movements you can do in the comfort of your own living room that will increase your cardio, functional strength, and core stability. Depending on how large your room is and how much furniture is in the room will determine how many ‘strides’ you can take across the room before having to turn around.

Shadow Boxing

You can practice punching, kneeing, kicking (with a spin through), elbowing, bobbing and weaving, slipping, eighth turns, quarter turns, half turns, and just about anything else you can think of that’s boxing / kickboxing / muay thai / cardio kickboxing related. Just make sure you aren’t throwing kicks at your couch and you have the room to do this. Your stance isn’t going to be crazy large or anything (you’re a bit further than shoulder width apart) so you realistically need maybe 5 feet total around you to complete things like half turns and spin through kicks.

Just remember, boxing comes more from rotation than it does from any one particular part of the body. A punch doesn’t come from the shoulders – it comes from rotating at the hips. You’re throwing your entire bodyweight behind the strike. And the rotating of the body allows you to load up the next strike.

Mountain Climbers / Sit Ups / Any ‘explosive’ Ab Exercise

One of my goals for this website is to eventually put together ‘The Definitive Guide To Ab Exercises.’ The only problem with that is there are literally thousands of exercises and all you have to do is add in some random tool (kettlebell, dumbbell, sandbag, bulgarian sandbag, steel mace, etc, etc) and you’ve multiplied out the list indefinitely.

Just think explosive ab exercise – V Up, Mountain Climber, Sit Up, Toe Touch. All of these involve movement of the body. We’re doing cardio so just look for ab exercises that don’t involve a static hold like a plank or side plank and we’re solid.

Putting together a ‘do cardio in front of my television’ routine

Honestly you have a lot of options. I like an app that’s simply called Training Timer for my Android phone. I sadly can’t find it in the App Store to provide you with a link, but any free training timer app should work for these purposes.

If you wanted to go the strict Tabata route you could set a timer for 20 seconds of work 10 seconds of rest for 8 rounds then do push ups, band assisted pull ups, chair dips, lunges, squats, mountain climbers, and V ups.


You could go the 5-ish minute abs route with the ab routine (which is my preferred method) and do something like – 30 seconds of work 10 seconds of rest for a TOTAL of 8 rounds of mountain climbers, V ups, toe touches, spider man planks (or whatever 2/4 exercises you want to put together in those 8 rounds.)

If you’re just starting out play around with the work / rest ratios. Maybe 30 seconds of explosive push ups followed up by 30 seconds of rest. Or 2 minutes straight of jumping jacks then 1 minute of rest. Play around with your ratios as you become more physically fit / whether you’re trying to put together a routine that will last through a 30 minute TV show vs a 60 minute TV show.

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