Exercise snacking – it’s probably not what you think it is. And before you begin to conjure up images of snacking on a packet of salt and vinegar crisps during your home workout, stop!
So, what is exercise snacking if it’s not related to your favourite bag of crisps, peanuts, or chocolate?
Simply put, the definition of exercise snacking means to do short bursts (usually intense) of exercise during the day. In some cases, depending on how intense these spurts are, they can be just as effective as taking your favourite spin class at the gym or doing a few rounds on the bags.
And since the country is in lockdown and there’s no way to step inside a gym, exercise snacking is starting to seem like a good idea.
Exercise snacking is even more appealing these days, especially if you’ve been sitting at your “office” desk all day or helping monitor your kids with their school work. Some days, it’s just impossible to find the time.
Having a short burst of activity like this will help you pull yourself away from work, get some exercise, and recharge your batteries at the same time.
So what does exercise snacking involve?
Well, it could be as little as climbing up and down your stairs a couple of times a day.
A recent study in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism discovered that when sedentary adults climbed a three-flight staircase three to four times a day with a few hours break in between each climb, they ended up being stronger and fitter at the end of the six-week study.
But that’s not the only good thing about such exercise during the day. Because it only takes a matter of minutes each time, you can get back to whatever it was you were doing before and not feel like you’ve missed much.
While there are no clear-cut rules for exercise snacking, it’s recommended that you do four-five exercises, spending one minute on each one with a short break in between.
Speed isn’t important at first — go at your own pace — you’ll soon find that you naturally get faster the more you practise. Your main aim should be to complete as many reps as you possibly can in that minute.
And, if you find that your legs, or another part of your body begins to feel overly sore while you’re doing any of the exercises, stop, rest, and go on with the next one if you can. If you can’t, don’t beat yourself up – there are plenty more opportunities to perfect this.
Exercise Snacking Routine
If walking (or jogging) up and down stairs isn’t an option for you, here’s another recommended exercise snacking routine we love. Keep a record of how many reps you do per exercise and try and beat your record each time.
Grab a kitchen chair, and simply repeat standing up from a seated position and sitting down again, making sure to keep your back straight at all times. To make the most out of this exercise, try keeping your arms folded to avoid using them for assistance.
Standing Knee Bends
Stand up tall, bending one knee at approximately a right angle, raise one foot, return it to the floor, and simply repeat using your opposite leg. If you’re struggling with balance with this one, find something stable to support you.
Marching on the spot is just as good as doing it anywhere else. To do this move, stand tall, placing your arms in front with your hands approximately at waist level. March with high legs, aiming to touch the top of your hands with your legs. Again, if balance is an issue in the beginning, use something, like the back of a chair, to stablise yourself.
Seated Leg Kicks
Grab your kitchen chair again and sit on it upright. Straighten one leg in front of you, controlling your speed. Return the leg to your starting position and repeat on the other side.
For this exercise, stand up with your feet firmly on the floor. Using both feet, rise onto your toes as high as you possibly can (you should feel a good stretch in the back of your calves). Hold the position for a few seconds and then lower your feet back to the floor and repeat. To help maintain your balance, use something to hold on to.
Alternative Exercise Snacking Exercises
The exercise snacking exercises mentioned above are just an example of a routine you can include in your daily life. Other simple exercise snacking exercises could include:
• Squat jumps
• Star jumps
• Alternate lunges
• Jumping lunges
• Curtsey lunges
• Mountain climbers
• Frog jumps
• Sprinting on the spot
Like with any kind of exercise you do, you’ll likely feel a little fatigued after the session, which of course is a good sign.
But the main principle of exercise snacking is that the short bursts of exercises shouldn’t be overly demanding.
Make sure you use a stable object to maintain balance in exercises that require it to avoid hurting yourself. Doing a few simple stretches afterwards is also important to avoid injury.
Take home message
In short, exercise snacking is perfect if you want to prevent cardiovascular overload that’s typically experienced in jogging and running. It’s also a great way of incorporating movement into your daily life, which is now more important than ever — not only for your physical health, but also your mental health.