Is It Time To Make Exercise Snacks Part Of Your Routine?

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March 1, 2022

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Often when we talk or think about exercise, what first comes to mind is strenuous workouts or bouts of movement that last for at least 20 minutes and leave us puffing and sweaty. 

Sure, those exercise sessions have many amazing benefits, but what about the other remaining hours in the day? What about when you don’t have a big chunk of time free for a long workout, can’t access the gym, are feeling demotivated, or are coming back from a break or setback

Let us introduce you to exercise snacks! And no, we don’t mean the walk to the fridge or eating in the middle of a squat (although that does sound pretty good, right?).

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A change of pace

Prior to Covid-19, a lot of us were already working desk-bound jobs or spending a lot of time sitting down, but as a result of the pandemic, many of our lives have become more restricted and less active than ever before.

A 2020 study from the University of California found that within 30 days of a global pandemic being declared, average daily step counts fell worldwide by 27%, and in some countries this decrease was close to 50%.

Given the significant changes to our daily routines and environment, this isn’t surprising, but when research has shown the connection between sedentary lifestyles and higher risk of diseases such as type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease, it’s important to still find ways to stay active. That’s where the idea of exercise snacks comes in.

Sneak in those snacks

If you think of your longer workouts and cardio sessions as a meal, then your snacks are much shorter bursts of movement! Anything from 30 seconds to a few minutes fits the bill.

Health guidelines typically used to recommend doing at least 10 minutes of exercise at a time to reap the benefits, but recent research is suggesting that much shorter bursts spread throughout the day can be just as beneficial. 

When we look at the areas of the world where people tend to live the longest and the healthiest, also known as Blue Zones, they also don’t necessarily have specific “exercise” time scheduled in their days - being active is simply part of their lifestyles. 

Similarly, the exercise snack movement is all about living a healthy lifestyle by making regular movement part of your day. 

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The benefits of short bursts

While we still encourage you to find time in your schedule for longer workouts when you can, this is all about finding more opportunities to get moving during your day, rather than structuring your day around movement. 

Regular bursts of movement help to regulate your blood sugar levels, improve cardiovascular health, release muscle tension and lower your risk of diseases. 

According to 2019 research published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, a few minutes of stair climbing, at short intervals throughout the day, can improve cardiovascular health, strength and fitness. It’s as easy as that!

A 2021 study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that interrupting periods of sitting with short walks or bouts of repeated chair stands are effective for stabilising blood sugar and improving glycaemic control, and a 2016 study published in Diabetologia Journal had similar findings. For individuals with type 2 diabetes, breaking up long periods of sitting with standing and light-intensity walking was actually a more effective way to improve 24-hour glucose levels and insulin sensitivity than structured exercise. 

The key is to spread your exercise snacks regularly throughout the day to keep your body moving often. If you find yourself sitting for hours, it can help to set an hourly alarm on your phone, watch or work calendar to remind you to move. 

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Time to get snacking

Another great thing about exercise snacks is you don’t need any equipment, space or even a change of clothes! It’s simply about getting your body moving and blood flowing for a couple of minutes. 

If you’re just beginning your fitness journey, are coming back from a break, or can’t muster up the motivation to work out right now (we’ve all been there!), quick bursts of movement can be the perfect way to get started or shift your mindset about exercise.

Here are some ideas to get the ball rolling:

  • Stand up from your desk chair and sit back down multiple times

  • Walk or bike to the bus or train station, or even for the full journey!

  • Walk while on the phone or take walking meetings

  • Do a quick burst of exercise in your lounge or office, such as squats, star jumps, pushups or even dance for the length of your favourite song

  • Power walk or jog for a couple of minutes

  • Do some gardening

  • Play with your children

  • Take the stairs instead of the lift

  • A quick yoga flow or stretch

In the Sweat app, you can also explore the On Demand section to find Express workouts that will take you between 10 and 15 minutes, or check out the Instagram pages of our Sweat trainers - they often share some of their favourite short workouts! 

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Ready for your first workout?

Remember, any movement you do is going to be beneficial for your health, so whether you love short bursts of exercise or longer sessions work better with your routine (or a mix of both!), find what works best for you and have fun with it. 

Tell us in the comments, what’s your favourite quick exercise snack?

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A more empowered you starts with Sweat, and our editorial team is here to bring you the latest fitness tips, trainer recommendations, wellbeing news, nutritional advice, nourishing recipes and free workouts.

* Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. Sweat assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.


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