50 Ways to Sneak Exercise Snacks into Your Busy Day
It can be hard to find the time to exercise. To stay healthy, we need to workout for at least 150 minutes every week. But life is so hectic, most people have trouble fitting in a gym class or a 30-minute run. And for someone who has just gone through cancer treatments, traditional workouts can be too exhausting. But, we don’t necessarily need to workout for long periods to be healthy and fit. All we may need are short bursts of movement, called exercise snacks, throughout our day. And, in this article, I will give you 50 easy exercise snacks you can try.
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The majority of people in North America lead sedentary lifestyles. During an average day, 65% of people sit for about 10 hours. Even on weekends, we sit for an average of 8 hours during the day. The trend is that if you are sedentary at work, you are likely to be sedentary at home. While this may not be the case for all of us, the data suggests that 65% of us sit too much. Sitting diseases are on the rise.
But it is easy to change all this. There are sneaky ways to get in some exercise. And it doesn’t mean an hour in the gym or a 5 km run. Just getting your body moving and your muscles contracting for short intervals is all that is required.
What are Exercise Snacks?
Exercise snacks is a phrase that some researchers coined in 2014. They were studying whether small doses of intense exercise before meals would result in better blood sugar control in diabetics. The called these short, intense bursts of exercise as “exercise snacks”. And they did discover that the people who did these exercise snacks had better blood sugar control after a meal.
These researchers, and others, went on to explore if these exercise snacks could help keep people fit and healthy. They discovered that they could indeed do this.
Always consult with your physician or health care provider before beginning any exercise program.
Always work to your current level of fitness. Know your limits and listen to your body.
What are the Benefits of Exercise Snacks?
Moving your body has health benefits. That is no secret. But it wasn’t until more recently that researchers started exploring just how beneficial short spurts of activity truly are. Let’s look at some health benefits you can gain from exercise snacking.
12 Benefits of Short Bursts of Exercise during Your Day
- Improved Memory
- Better Health
- Improved Heart Function
- Longer Life
- Better Mood
- More Creativity
- Lower Insulin Levels
- Improve Metabolism
- Better Fitness
- Improved Blood Sugar Levels
- Energy Boosts
- Helps Combat Sitting Diseases
Can I Skip the Gym if I do Exercise Snacks?
No, not really. A lot of the studies done were on sedentary people. And short bursts of activity can help these people. But if you are a regular gym goer or already doing a significant amount of workouts, exercise snacks may not be able to replace your current fitness routines. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t incorporate them into your daily routine too.
Some research results suggest you may be able to maintain your current level of fitness if you do short bursts of activity throughout your day. In addition, doing some exercise snacks along side your regular workout may help you with some additional gains.
What are Sitting Diseases?
Fitting in a few minutes of exercise every hour or so, helps get you up out of your chair. We just are not meant to sit for prolonged periods of time. Sitting for a long time can cause blood to pool in your lower legs which may lead to swelling, discomfort, and pain. Prolonged sitting also interferes with your ability to metabolize sugars and can raise insulin levels.
Sitting diseases are illnesses that have been linked to prolonged sitting. The more you sit, the greater your risk of getting one of these diseases.
The following health issues and sitting diseases have been linked to prolonged sitting:
- Heart disease
- Pain of the neck, back, and legs
- Varicose veins
- Blood clots
Yes, sitting for long periods has also been linked to an increased risk for cancers, such as lung, uterine and colon cancers.
What Intensity Should I Exercise for These Short Intervals?
Most people can gain some fitness from a “light-moderate” intensity exercise break. That means you are exercising in a Heart Rate Zone of 2 or 3, which is 60 – 70% of Maximum Heart Rate.
If that was gobbledygook to you, just know that you should be able to carry on a conversation during the activity at this level. You shouldn’t go all out, unless you are use to higher intensities.
If you are already fit, you should aim to workout during these short bursts at a “hard-very hard” intensity. This is Zone 4 or 5, which is 80 – 90% of Maximum Heart Rate. Zone 5 is an all-out effort, giving it everything you’ve got. But, for ONLY short intervals. And that point is important. All-out efforts should always be brief, such as in High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) or sprinting intervals.
However, for most of us, light to moderate intensity exercise snacks can be a good way of getting the recommended 150 minutes/week of exercise. That is good news.
How Long is an Exercise Snack?
The researchers suggest that anything 15 seconds and longer can be of benefit. It was also the premise behind the One Minute Workout.
Exercise Snacks are For Every Body
The beauty of exercise snacks is that they can be done by anyone at any level of fitness. You get health benefits no matter how fit you currently are. You just need to get up and move your body. The more exercise snacking you do, the bigger the benefit, but some is better than none.
It is easier to fit exercise into your day, when you can, than to plan your day around longer workouts. So, exercise snacking can easily fit with anyone’s schedule.
Try some of these exercise snack ideas:
50 Exercise Snacks to Sneak in Extra Exercise During Your Day
- Try a few burpees during commercials when watching TV.
- Do standing push-ups off the kitchen counter while waiting for a pot to boil when making dinner.
- Walk around the waiting room at the doctor’s office.
- While your children are at sport practice, go for a 5-minute easy run.
- Play tag with your son or daughter after work.
- Dance to some music while doing the dishes.
- Keep a yoga mat at work and do a few body weight exercises during your break time.
- Vacuum the house; a great exercise while being productive at the same time.
- Take the dog for a walk.
- Have a walking meeting at work.
- Do a wall sit while brushing your teeth.
- Do some chair yoga at your work desk.
- Take the stairs, not the elevator.
- Park farther from your destination and walk there. It might even save you some parking money.
- Workout on a stationary bike or treadmill while watching your favorite show.
- Go out for a walk at lunch.
- Take workout clothes on vacation and enjoy the hotel gym before sightseeing.
- Do some yoga before bedtime.
- Walk in place while talking on the phone.
- When you go outside to get your mail, walk around the block before coming back inside.
- If travelling by car, stop along the way and take a stroll around to soak up the scenery.
- Take the baby or grand baby for a walk in a stroller.
- Lift the garbage bag a few times before taking it out to the curb.
- Do a couple stretches in bed before getting up.
- Try some mountain climbers between Netflix episodes.
- Go ahead and tap your feet to the music.
- Get in some triceps dips on the kitchen counter while waiting for the coffee to brew.
- Play hide and seek with the cat. Trust me, they love this.
- Try some jumping jacks while waiting to pick up your child from school.
- When your sport watch says “move”, actually get up and move.
- Stuck in the air on a flight? Try some calf raises and leg lifts.
- Try some biceps curls with a water bottle while in your airplane seat.
- Spend some active time with your children, perhaps go for a bike ride.
- Do some yoga with your baby or grand baby.
- Fidget more. Wiggling in your chair and changing positions helps improve blood flow.
- Crank the tunes and play air drums or air guitar.
- Moisturize your skin after getting out of the shower. Yes, the act of rubbing in lotion is exercise.
- Speaking of rubbing in lotion, give your partner a massage. It benefits both of you.
- Organize a closet. It will give you a sense of accomplishment while working your body.
- Do some squats before sitting down to dinner.
- Plant some flowers. Gardening is great exercise that can be done in small doses.
- Toss the ball with your dog.
- Sweep the sidewalk in front of your house.
- Instead of texting or phoning your co-worker down the hall, walk to their office.
- Wash your car. Another great exercise and something to check off your to-do list.
- Build a play fort with your kids. This can be an indoor or an outdoor activity that can get your heart rate up while having fun with your children.
- Make your bed every morning to help get your body moving.
- Do some isometric muscle pumping during a long meeting at work.
- Go window shopping or walk around a mall.
- Laugh with a friend. Laughing engages core muscles and brings joy to life.
*I put a printable download copy of this list in the Pink Ribbon Runner Library. Sign up for my newsletter and emails for FREE access. Lots of free goodies in there. Be sure to have a look around.
Do These Exercise Snacks Really Make a Difference?
Yes, short bursts of activity throughout your day do make a difference. Working out in smaller chunks can be an effective way to stay fit and healthy.
Think of it this way… exercise snacks are the High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) for every day. Both HIIT workouts and exercise snacks use the same concept of higher-intensity intervals. The difference is that exercise snacks have a longer rest period.
You will build fitness by moving more and sitting less. And before you know it… you will easily get your 150 minutes of exercise each week.
Okay, so now that you have read this article, get up right now. Get moving. Go for a short walk. Do some jumping jacks. Put on some tunes and dance.
Move your body and get healthy!
If you enjoyed this article, check out these other posts on Pink Ribbon Runner:
12 Benefits of Body Weight Exercises Done At Home
15 Fabulous Ways to Stay Active Indoors
12 Fun Ways to Workout on a Treadmill
Such a valuable blog post! Will definitely try some of them out!
Love the ideas! I also really like the One-Minute Workout book.
I had never heard of the term “exercise snacks” before, but it totally made sense. And…I was already incorporating the concept into my life. The life of a multi-tasking mom I guess.
This is a great article. I need to start doing this. I think setting an alarm on my phone will help me remember. I also think schools should incorporate something like this, our kids sit way too long at school.
I completely agree with your comment about schools. Thank you for adding that.
These are great ideas for me as a stay at home mom. Knowing anything over 15 seconds can be beneficial plus how do-able this is makes me want to add this into my day, thanks!!
Great list! I always try to run around and do stuff during commercials and often walk the track during my kids sporting events nearby, but there’s always time to try other ways.