With the start of the new year, scores of Americans are rushing to their local gyms, resolving to get a head start on a healthier routine.
For some, particularly amid today’s high-velocity news cycle, this daily routine may involve hitting a treadmill or elliptical machine while catching up on cable TV networks.
But one nationwide fitness chain has decided that the combination of cardio and cable news does not align with a “healthy way of life.”
Life Time Fitness, a Minnesota-based gym chain, has decided to eliminate all national cable network news stations from the TV screens at its 128 fitness centers in the U.S. and Canada. The removed channels include CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and CNBC, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
The decision, which was made at the start of the new year, came after a wave of feedback from gym members over time, Life Time said in a statement on Twitter last week. It also stemmed from the chain’s “commitment to provide family oriented environments free of consistently negative or politically charged content,” the statement read.
“It is always our goal to meet the majority of members’ expressed requests and we believe this change is consistent with the desires of overall membership as well as our healthy way of life philosophy,” the statement read.
The big-screen TVs at all clubs will now air “USA, A&E, Discovery and HGTV, in addition to local stations and ESPN,” spokeswoman Natalie Bushaw told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. These TVs can be seen throughout the fitness areas, but can only be heard through headphones.
Some personal TV screens built into the clubs’ cardio machines have the ability to display cable news channels, Bushaw told the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and Life Time plans to make these available at all stations by the end of February.
“Clubs do have flexibility to air programs of interest in their club, such as local sporting events from college to pro teams,” Bushaw told the Star Tribune. Life Time clubs, which are currently located in 36 major markets in the U.S. and Canada, also have WiFi, meaning members can watch news on their own devices as they please.
Life Time, founded in 1992 by Bahram Akradi, touts a “healthy and happy life for its members,” according to its website. It aims to provide a comprehensive experience “that goes well beyond fitness to encompass the entire spectrum of daily life for individuals, couples and families of all ages.”
Numerous studies have indeed shown that consumption of emotional content of TV news can affect a person’s mental health and mood, according to Graham C.L. Davey, an emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Sussex.
“Our studies also showed that this change in mood exacerbates the viewers own personal worries - even when those worries are not directly relevant to the news stories being broadcast,” Davis said in an email to The Washington Post.
One study described in the Harvard Business Review found that people who watched just three minutes of negative news in the morning had a 27 percent greater likelihood of reporting their day as unhappy six to eight hours later, compared to a group that watched positive news focused on uplifting stories of resilience.
Several Life Time members on Twitter praised the gym chain’s decision to remove cable news networks, with some saying they already feel less stressed during their workouts.
The gym, wrote one member, “is no place for constant negativity like the news chains love to surround themselves with.”
But many others criticized the decision, characterizing it as censorship. Several Twitter users threatened to pull their Life Time memberships as a result of the decision.
“For many of us it’s the only time to watch the news!” tweeted Grant Napear, a sports radio host based in Sacramento.
Pete Hegseth, co-host of “Fox & Friends Weekend,” tweeted to Life Time asking, “why did you cave to a few snowflake whiners and turn off @FoxNews? I’m a member, and while I don’t love watching #FakeNews @CNN or Socialist @MSNBC-I’m an adult and can handle it. America is about CHOICE, not CENSORSHIP.”