Exercise snacking is the simplest way to improve your health and fitness when you don’t have time to train. Discover why exercise snacking is so effective and what you need to get started
What is exercise snacking?
I have to say, I initially thought exercise snacking was an exciting new combo of pausing mid-exercise to indulge in a tasty snack. Alas, I was wrong. Instead, it’s the recent phenomenon of getting fit through tackling bite-sized bouts of exercise throughout the day rather than one longer continuous session.
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I know what you’re thinking: we already have HIIT training, spin classes and Peloton sessions – how much shorter can it get? But this is even more accessible and convenient and still offers health and fitness benefits.
Before we dive in, I appreciate I’m talking to a certain group of people here. This article isn’t really geared towards avid athletes who love training multiple times each week for as long as they can*. I’m more addressing those who are super time-crunched: parents, business owners, carers, those who have all-encompassing jobs and the like.
*having said that, I know many – myself included – who "can't find time" for a 45-minute strength and conditioning session and would likely benefit from setting a target of three 10-minute sessions instead.
Take the stairs rather than the lift. Congrats, you're exercise snacking!
What are the benefits of exercise snacking?
The science is still emerging, but there’s convincing evidence to support it already.
One study by Dr Murphy from the University of Ulster compared two groups - one cohort did a 30-minute walk each day while the other completed 3 x 10 minute walks per day. Participants in the latter group not only lost more fat but also decreased their cholesterol and improved their VO2 max.
A lot of this has to do with EPOC (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption). As Dr Murphy says: “When we stop exercising, our metabolism keeps going a little bit quicker while we recover. You still have that metabolic mill turning a little bit quicker.”
This is EPOC. Over the course of a single day you’re giving your metabolism a boost three times, rather than just once. This means you'll expend more energy.
When I first heard of exercise snacking, I thought of Eroica. Packed with protein, natural ingredients and darn tasty, it's the perfect snack!
Another study, this time by the University of Bath, showed leg strength, power and muscle size all increased over a period of just four weeks when introducing daily exercise snacking.
Exercise snacking – how to do it
Unlike HIIT training, spin classes and circuit training, where a minimum of 30-minutes is needed, exercise snacking only requires short chunks of time spread throughout the day.
Bodyweight exercises are a great place to start – no kit is needed and they can be done anywhere. The best exercises include:
- Squat jumps
- Press ups
- Run on the spot
- Hop on one foot
- Pull ups
- Calf raises
Press ups are a brilliant exercise for a time-crunched individual. There's also countless variations to keep things interesting (such as lifting one leg off the floor)
You can upgrade your exercise snacking by keeping a kettlebell close to hand, but the point is you don’t need anything to reap the benefits.
Spend 10-minute doing any combination of the above bodyweight exercises three times per day and you’ll see a remarkable difference compared to only giving yourself one 30-minute window to exercise.
Another way to look at exercise snacking is thinking how you can incorporate a short bout of exercise into your day without even dedicating the time to it:
- Run up the stairs instead of taking the lift
- Complete as many calf raises as possible while brushing your teeth
- Smash out press ups while you wait for the kettle to boil
- Run on the spot while you’re waiting for your tea to brew
Lifting heavy weights – while superb for health and fitness, even marathon runners – is not ideal here. It’ll take too long to warm up and you don’t want to lift heavy on cold muscles.
Exercise snacking – make it achievable
Another simple win for time-crunched (and cost-conscious) people is adding Ultimate Daily Greens to your morning routine. Just one spoonful is all you need for a big health kick
I challenge anyone who says they don’t have two or three 10-minute windows in their day to go for a brisk walk or do some squats. I’d also argue everyone has 30-minutes straight to dedicate to exercise but I understand the barrier is greater. 10 minutes of squats, press ups or jumps can be done right now, beside your desk – no need to change, no need to fuel. Just stand up and get it done.
Because it’s more accessible, you’re also more likely to stick with it. One huge factor of setting great goals is ensuring they’re achievable – exercise snacking is definitely that.
Exercise snacking – conclusion
You’ve got to start somewhere. If you’re at a point where exercise simply doesn’t fit into your hectic life, then start by committing to two 5-minute ‘snacks’ each day. Do this for two weeks and I guarantee you’ll notice the difference.