We’d be forgiven for thinking that ‘exercise snacking’ is stopping mid-push-up for a tasty morsel, perhaps a handful of nuts or a cheeky biscuit, or snacking in between exercises. Alas, this isn’t what we’re talking about!
Exercise snacking isn’t about food at all, but about sprinkling in small pockets of exercise throughout our day. If the thought of doing a 2-hour boot camp session, CrossFit class, or 50 burpees makes our toes curl up then exercise snacking is for us! It’s also brilliant for those of us whose lives are brimming to bursting point and who don’t have time to spend 45 mins a day getting our sweat on.
Research suggests that exercise snacking is just as effective as a long slog in the gym. A study by McMaster University in Ontario found that short spells of physical movement – like a brisk walk up and down the stairs a few times a day – successfully improved fitness levels. 
And science isn’t the only reason to give exercise snacking a go. We hear a lot about the power of mindsets. Getting fit in small bites rather than, what can feel like, overwhelmingly long sessions can help us to reframe what we think about exercise. Feeling a sense of accomplishment can shift our mindset from:
“Gosh, this is blinkin’ hardcore!”, “I’d rather a poke in the eye than exercise”, “I’m never going to reach this ridiculous goal”, to “Wow, look what I did! I’m great!”.
So how can we get started, especially if we lead pretty sedentary lives?
Here are some snack ideas:
1. Add exercise to phone calls
A work or social call is a brilliant time to add some activity into our day. It doesn’t have to be so strenuous that we end up creepily deep breathing down the phone. The other person doesn’t even have to know. Walk and talk, do some hand weights (a tin of tomatoes or bottle of vino works wonders), knee raises, stretches, or simple yoga poses.
2. Set an alarm
Exercise can easily be forgotten when we have a smorgasbord of other more important things to do like work meetings, deadlines, cooking, shopping, kids to get dressed, sleeping, washing our pants, etc, etc, etc. Set an alarm 2-3 times a day, or even once a day if we can’t currently manage more, to give us a little reminder to walk around the block, run up and down the stairs a few times, or pop on our favourite song and have a dance.
3. Enlist some help
Start an online family, friends, or work-mates group. Make it a pre-requisite of joining that everyone needs to find and share one exercise video to do that’s 5 minutes or less. Then get moving, take some pics, share the fun, and gee each other on! Exercise becomes much easier to do when we enlist the support of our cheerleaders. Unlock Buddyboost in your Wellometer to get cracking.
4. Tie it into meal times
Before sitting down to eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner set a timer for 5 minutes and partake in a little ‘snacking’. It could be as simple as jogging on the spot to warm up, followed by a minute of star jumps and then 30 seconds to rest and catch our breath, repeated 4 or 5 times. Find exercises that aren’t going to make us keel over but do get us out of breath. Mix it up and try different things.
5. Stand up twice
Yep, stand up twice! What? How? Every time we get up from our desk, the sofa, etc. stand up, then sit back down, and then stand up again. This is a great habit to get into and will help strengthen our legs, abs, and hip muscles. And if we use a mobility aid, we can do the same, move, return to our starting position, move again.
And the final one - change our mindset
Exercise can often be seen as a dreaded chore. Using the phrase ‘exercise snack’ is a great way to reframe our thoughts and remind us that we can view it as a treat! Make sure that whatever exercise we’re doing feels good (even if it only feels good after we’ve finished). Find pockets of movement that are fun or interesting to us. Don’t like skipping? Then don’t do it. How about hula hooping, laughing yoga, or Zumba?
Snack happy: Exercise snacking is quite possibly the healthiest form of snacking there is! Start looking where to add these little titbits of exercise, especially when we’re busy and don’t think we have time. Give it a go for the next week, even if it’s just once a day, and see how you feel. Happy snacking!
1. Do stair climbing exercise “snacks” improve cardiorespiratory fitness? (2018). NRC Research Press.