Exercise Snacks — The Painless Way to Satisfy Your Body’s Appetite for Movement

“Exercise snacks” have recently come to my attention through my eclectic online reading habits. It seems to be a popular idea right now, but I was able to trace it back to at least 2014, in an article from the New York Times website: “Exercise ‘Snacks’ to Control Blood Sugar” by Gretchen Reynolds.

She defined “exercise snacks” as “multiple, brief, snack-sized portions of exercise.”

Apparently the concept started with a study(ies) on how short bursts of exercise spread throughout the day can be helpful in managing blood sugar.

More recently, the idea is applied to more general benefits of exercise.

In a January, 2019 article in Psychology Today, Meg Seleg makes the point that “too often people view exercise as a dreaded chore.  The phrase ‘exercise snacking’ reminds us that we can view exercise as a treat.  Moving around can feel good and give us pleasure!”

I completely agree. I’ve gradually come to really enjoy exercise. Nothing fancy or extreme. Just a brisk walk, a tiny jog, a few minutes of bouncing on my mini trampoline. But it feels great, and makes a good break from whatever else I’m doing.

Looking at a good habit as not something we have to do, but something we want to do to nurture ourselves, can reframe our feelings about it and make us more likely to  actually do it.

So as I see it, these exercise snacks have three main lifestyle/fitness benefits.

  1. For people who don’t like to exercise, doing it in snack form throughout the day may make it less overwhelming and more achieveable. It can even become a fun break to look forward to, that you start wanting to do more often.
  2. Another prevalent concept is that if your work or lifestyle is mainly sedentary, then doing even a substantial workout once a day is — though of course beneficial — not enough to counteract the negative effects of being inactive most of the day. Adding in exercise snacks can keep you more active throughout the day.
  3.  These exercise breaks can also refresh your mind and renew your energy, so you’re more productive when you get back to work.

So whether you replace your longer workout with several smaller ones or you use these “snacks” to supplement your regular workout the way you would supplement regular meals with healthful snacks, they can be a fun and easy addition to your daily routine.

Some possible snacks listed include activities as simple as standing up for a few minutes, climbing a flight of stairs a few times, walking around in your house, or going outside to get the newspaper (or mail).

Other possible exercise snacks

  • Walk or jog around the block
  • Walk on the treadmill while you enjoy a chapter of an audiobook
  • Jump rope
  • Play with your (grand)children.
  • Energetically perform a chore, like vacuuming or gardening.

Use your imagination. The point is to fit exercise in more times in a day, and enjoy it more.

That’s it for now. Happy snacking, and next time we’ll talk about tomatoes, (sort of).