Instead of grabbing a handful of chips or a cookie to snack on today, try snacking on exercise! An exercise “snack” is a short burst of movement you can do anywhere, anytime. You don’t even need to change your clothes. Try 10 wall push-ups or 20 jumping jacks. Take a dance break or do the Standing 7-Minute Workout. (We’ve got a workout video and more ideas for you below.)
Why Am I Doing This?
An exercise snack can last for 20 seconds, a minute or several minutes. It may not seem like much, but a number of scientific studies show that exercise snacking a few times a day leads to meaningful gains in fitness and overall health.
When researchers at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada, asked a dozen exercisers to take a 20-second exercise break three times day, just three days a week (they raced up three flights of stairs for 20 seconds), the exercisers increased their aerobic fitness by about 5 percent after six weeks. The key to getting the biggest benefit from exercise snacking? The shorter the exercise break, the more you should step up the effort.
“We’ve sort of been conditioned that exercise is this thing you do in a special place once you change into spandex, and it’s very daunting for people,” said Martin Gibala, professor of kinesiology at McMaster University, whose lab has conducted several studies of exercise snacking. “You can just be active, even if it means setting your watch to remind you to do some squats or wall sits for one minute after an hour of sitting.”
1. The 7-Minute Standing Workout. For this easy exercise snack, from Chris Jordan, director of exercise physiology at the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute, all you need is a wall, a chair for balance and sturdy shoes.
2. Body weight squats. This fundamental exercise builds strength in your legs and glutes. Just take a break from work a few times a day to do 20 seconds of squats. If you want to step it up, jump up explosively from each squat and allow your feet to lift off the floor.
3. Yoga. If you prefer a less strenuous activity, take a yoga snack break three times a day. Try to pick a pose that’s challenging but doesn’t hurt — like a plank, tree pose or triangle pose — and hold it for about a minute if you can. Remember to breathe!