Blocking out 30, 45 or 60 minutes a day dedicated to exercise can be daunting. Only about 25% of US adults get the recommended amount of exercise each week – 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity with 2 strength training sessions. If you find yourself, like many others, getting even less exercise since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, exercise “snacks” may be for you!
What are exercise “snacks”?
An exercise “snack” means working out in small bursts throughout the day. Monique Francois, an exercise physiologist coined the phrase in a 2014 study. Exercise “snacks” include standing and stretching, 15-20 minute HIIT (High Intensity Internal Training) sessions and other quick activities.
Are exercise “snacks” effective?
Yes! A study by BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine found that these short bursts, less than 10 minutes, of exercise showed similar benefits to cardiovascular health as longer exercise sessions. The 2014 study mentioned above suggests exercise “snacks” before meals can be more effective in blood sugar control throughout the day vs. a traditional 30-minute exercise session. The key is making sure you are getting your heart pumping and muscles moving.
How to start exercise “snacking”
As stated, the current recommendation is at least 150 minutes a week of aerobic activity a week. This sounds like a really large number right?!? Let’s take a look at the recommendations from an exercise “snack” perspective.
- 5 minutes – stretching the morning during your morning coffee break
- 10 minutes – walk during lunch
- 5 minutes – walking up and down stairs in the afternoon
- 5 minutes – stretching or marching in place at night while watching TV
These exercise snacks add up to 25 minutes per day. Work this into your daily routine and you’re at 175 minutes a week. Sprinkle in some strength training with squats, lunges, bicep curls or tricep dips. This puts you well over the minimum recommendation of 150 minutes a week!
Just like traditional snacking, you have the option of when and what exercise “snack” you would like to do.
At home from low intensity to high intensity:
- Stretching while watching TV
- Marching / walking in place while on a conference call
- Walking around the block or taking the dog for extra walks
- Squat or Lunges
- Bicep curls or Tricep dips
- Jumping jacks
- Jumping rope
- Parking car far away from store entrance
- Climbing a flight or so of stairs instead of taking the elevator
Pick your favorite exercise “snacks” and enjoy the benefits all day long! If it has been a while since you visited your health care provider, be sure to do so before starting a new exercise routine.
- Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans | Executive Summary. Available at: https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-10/PAG_ExecutiveSummary.pdf
- Magutah, K., Thairu, K., & Patel, N. (2020). Effect of short moderate intensity exercise bouts on cardiovascular function and maximal oxygen consumption in sedentary older adults. BMJ open sport & exercise medicine, 6(1), e000672. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjsem-2019-000672
- Francois, M.E., Baldi, J.C., Manning, P.J. et al.‘Exercise snacks’ before meals: a novel strategy to improve glycaemic control in individuals with insulin resistance. Diabetologia 57, 1437–1445 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00125-014-3244-6