8 easy ways to incorporate ‘exercise snacks’ into your day

Feel like a failure when you miss your gym session or Pilates class? ‘Bite’ into these quick bursts of physical activity instead.

Carving out time for exercise can be hard because, let’s face it, life. And work. And busyness.

Turns out that rather than beat ourselves up, we can back ourselves up – with “exercise snacks”.

Research is showing these short and easy forms of exercise can have similar benefits to longer and more sustained workouts.

The benefit of exercise snacks

In the Blue Zones (parts of the world where people have low rates of chronic disease and live longer than anywhere else), people don’t specifically exercise – they just move naturally.

That means walking for groceries, climbing stairs, gardening and doing physical chores.

While mixing food by hand or harvesting isn’t part of a normal day-to-day for most of us, science is finding that even 11 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity a day has its benefits.

In The One-Minute Workout, author and McMaster University kinesiology professor Dr Martin Gabila argues brief but intense bursts of exercise may be the most potent form of workout.

Which means you can pretty much improve your fitness anywhere, at any time, says Online Prostate Physiotherapy’s Eric Leckie.

“Don’t write off the day if you can’t make your run or the gym,” he says.

“Think about doing less exercise but more often, because we’re not meant to sit for long periods of time.

“My best advice is to set an alarm on your smart phone for every hour and schedule in little mini breaks throughout the day to get moving. Think consistency.”

Exercise snacks menu

Here are eight quick and easy exercise bites to incorporate into your normal day to day:

  1. Dance (like nobody’s watching)

Give it a try. You’ll not only burn kilojoules, research has shown getting your boogie on also assists in general activities for daily living.

Plus, dancing makes you happy!

  1. Get mobile on your mobile

Why not make phone time literally mobile time, i.e. get up and move around as you chat, whether it’s your bestie or your manager.

The theme is, incidental exercise adds up.

  1. Make bread or grind spices

On the Greek island of Ikaria, even the simple act of bread making (think hand kneading that dough) is seen as an exercise snack.

Try hand grinding spices for another top arm workout.

  1. Do one minute of squats

“If you want to get your heart rate up, try one minute of body weight squats,” Eric advises. “Rather than set yourself a number, get as many reps as you can in one minute – it’s a great compound exercise so it is working multiple muscles in a short burst.”

  1. Give your plants some love

While gardening outdoors is best (digging, sweeping, chopping and more), tending to indoor plants works too.

Try shifting your pots around every now and then.

  1. Take the stairs

You knew it would be here.

One study found that even climbing three flights of stairs, three times a day and three times a week increased oxygen uptake, albeit modestly. Get climbing.

  1. Pectoral stretch in your door frame

If you spend time hunched over a desk or a computer, this is a great chest stretch, says Eric. “Stand in a door frame and hold your arm up bent at a 90-degree angle.

“Press a palm against the frame, step forward and feel the stretch for 30 seconds before releasing.”

  1. Pull apart a resistance band

“A resistance band is handy for the home or office,” Eric says.

“Stand up and pull it apart across your chest.

“Do two sets of 20 until the muscles in between your shoulder blades feel really warm – you’ll wake up and strengthen all the muscles in your upper back.”

Stay on top of your strength

The last word goes to Intense Health Clinics trainer Marcelo Mesquita, who says on top of exercise snacks, don’t forget strength training to keep bones and muscles strong.

“Without hard mechanical work using proper resistance exercises, humans who live in big cities, as opposed to the Blue Zones, will lose muscle mass and function,” he says.

Written by Liz McGrath.