Exercise Snacking! Please get that in the right order; it is not snacking as an exercise!
Exercise snacking as a concept isn’t a new idea. It is basically a different way of getting in your required amount of exercise (the NHS recommends 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise plus some strength training per week). Gyms have both the equipment (aerobic and weight training) and the convenience (if you can fit a session in around your working life) to make them seem like the obvious choice for reaching that NHS target. What many people don’t realise is that taking one or two sessions of exercise a week can’t make up for the damage done by sitting down a lot in between.
The idea that joining a gym is the best way to get fit has been challenged by scientists for many years who have studied the benefits of a range of non-traditional exercise regimes. A well-known is high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which may offer similar or even superior effects on health as traditional endurance-based training but in much shorter exercise times. But what if you are unable to do the really intense workouts that the HIIT requires to be beneficial? High intensity isn’t high intensity if you cannot get yourself to work hard enough.
Another form or exercise that has emerged in to the public domain is exercise snacking. This form of multiple bouts of brief, “snack-sized” portions of exercise has been shown to control blood sugar better than a single, continuous workout. In a study examining the benefits of exercise snacking, researchers compared blood sugar in participants who exercised for 30 continuous minutes and, in the same group, when they broke their exercise up into three small portions performed shortly before breakfast, lunch and dinner. This “exercise snacking” lowered blood sugar for about 24 hours and did so much better than the 30-minute exercise.
Exercising around mealtimes also appears to be beneficial for people with diabetes. A study showed taking a 10-minute walk after each meal can significantly improve the control of blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes compared with a single 30-minute walk each day. These studies collectively highlight the importance of making sure we keep active throughout the day and increasing the amount of energy we use up in non-exercise activities that we normally do during everyday life, from walking up stairs to cleaning the house.
I believe that exercise snacking can be the way forward for people who sit down a lot during their normal daily life. I remember when I worked in an office but ran for an hour a day plus I did about 30 minutes a day in the gym. That meant I was exercising for 90 minutes a day on average. It sounds a lot (and to most people it is), but when you work out that it was only 6.25% of my day, meaning that usually 93.75% of my day was spent sitting or lying down; suddenly it doesn’t seem much.
Now I am a Personal Trainer I am constantly on my feet, but rarely actually exercising (apart from my one hour of running per day which I still maintain). What I do differently now is that after each client I train, I try to do between 5-10 minutes of lifting weights or doing some other form of exercises (bodyweight squats, single leg balancing, some core exercises, etc) and when I am in my ‘admin time’ I try to get up as much as possible for 5 minutes at a time, even if that is just to make a coffee.
When I train clients, I know that most are inherently lazy when it comes to their time away from our training sessions. Now that isn’t that they don’t want to do anything, it is that their time is precious and they cannot all afford to spend 30-60 minutes at a time working out. Instead, I give them workouts that they can do at home with minimal or no weights (whatever they have available to them). These workouts can be done in whole if they can, or in part so that they make up the 30-minute workouts over the course of the day.
Invariably, a fair few end up doing more than 30 minutes a day once it is broken up into small chunks as they enjoy the little and often approach, meaning they don’t notice the time spent exercising (plus the non-exercise exercise such as gardening, dog-walking, shopping, cleaning, moving things, etc).
So, if you want to improve your fitness and think that you don’t have the time, you do! You just need to enjoy the benefits of snacking!
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