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What is Exercise Snacking?

Exercise snacking has emerged in the fitness and health landscape over the past few years as a method of fitting exercise into busy lives and making exercise more appealing and less intimidating. It involves performing short, manageable bouts of activity (we’re talking as little as 1 minute), sometimes on multiple occasions spread throughout the day. The obvious advantage of this is that you don’t need to dedicate a whole hour (or more) of your day to training and therefore it is far easier to fit into hectic schedules. 

Exercise snacking can take various forms; ranging from a couple of minutes of stair climbing to a more structured interval training session of 10 or so minutes. These can be completed multiple times throughout the day to add up to the recommended exercise guidelines. 

So. Is there any point? Do we get any benefits from such short bouts of exercise and is there any evidence to support incorporating them into our lifestyle. 

Research has found a number of benefits on different aspects of health and fitness. Brief, frequent bouts of stair climbing have been found to lead to significant improvements in both participant’s strength and cardiovascular fitness (Nilsen et al, 2020). Exercise snacks of less than one minute repeated throughout the day are thought to go some way towards mitigating the negative effects of prolonged sitting on our metabolic and vascular systems (Islam et al, 2022).

Participants with pre-existing health conditions have also been found to benefit from exercise snacking. In people with type 2 diabetes, multiple, short duration, moderate intensity exercise snacks can lower glucose levels following a meal more so that a single, longer exercise session (Syeda et al, 2023). There is also research that snacking helped to reduce physical and cognitive decline in pre-frail memory clinic attendees (Western et al, 2023). 

This shows us that there are clear scientific benefits to exercise snacking. But by far the greatest advantage is its practical application. With busy jobs, families, social lives, a dislike or poor relationship with exercise finding 10 minutes in your day feels much more achievable than heading to the gym or out for a run for an hour. These sessions can be completed anytime and anywhere; I have clients that complete them before they even get dressed in the morning and others that do them at their desk between calls. 

This approach is also something I have started to adopt with rehab clients. I work with a number of people who work shifts, nights, have young children etc and so having to fit in a prolonged rehab session, or get to the gym is a challenge. Providing short sessions of one or two exercises that they can do while the kettle is boiling means that they are more likely to complete the rehab and start to see improvements. I am not claiming that this is the best approach and the quickest way to a rehab injury, but when people are time poor it provides them with a way of beginning to make progress and starting to see improvements. 

Exercise snacking is a promising method of increasing physical activity, health and wellbeing. It offers a manageable, accessible way of meeting physical activity guidelines for those who have busy schedules or have previously felt overwhelmed by long exercise sessions. Obviously there 

are limitations, and if you’re training for a marathon this probably isn’t going to cut it; but it could be a way of getting in those dreaded running strength sessions. 

If exercise snacking is something that you are interested in, then get in touch via the website. 

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