How we get our exercise isn’t what matters, you just need to make sure that it’s rigorous. That’s a fact fueling the popularity of a catchy new workout concept called the “exercise snack.” Personal trainers tell us what they love most about them and share their top picks for when you only have a few moments to spare for exercise.
Between our careers, families, and social lives, it’s easy to understand why we find it difficult to carve out enough time in our busy schedules for fitness. The UK Chief Medical Officers' Physical Activity Guidelines state that Londoners should be aiming to do at least 150 minutes of physical activity over a week. At first glance, people who aren’t especially active might see those numbers as frightfully impossible to achieve; worse yet, they conclude that there’s no benefit in even trying – that’s absolutely untrue according to the personal trainers we talked to.
Going from no exercise at all to getting even the smallest bit of exercise is always better than nothing. And you can expect to see real results! In fact, we learned that short bursts of vigorous physical activity done throughout the day can really make a difference when it comes to muscle growth and weight loss.
Welcome to the new world of “exercise snacks” - a real fitness solution for today’s busy professionals.
What are Exercise Snacks?
The number one hurdle that people just cannot seem to get over when it comes to working out is the perceived lack of time. Exercise snacks help us clear these hurdles by allowing us to capitalize on small opportunities to do short snippets of rigorous activity whenever we can.
Exercise snacks are nothing more than brief bursts of exercise, even as brief as a single minute. But when we do these short exercises consistently throughout the week, these so-called snacks can yield profound results. “Exercise snacks are rapidly gaining popularity as the new modern approach to physical fitness, especially for those who live a hopelessly busy lifestyle” said one personal trainer working out of a fitness spa in Canary Wharf on the eastern end of London.
And it’s not just a fad – there is real science to support that fact that the these exercise snacks can be equally as effective as a traditional workout if done consistently. In fact, one UK study found that those who participated in doing these exercise snacks improved the muscle power in their legs over a 28-day period.
What Personal Trainers Recommend for Getting Started
Whether you have one minute or 15, personal trainers recommend that getting started is as simple as that; just get started. That means getting up and moving whenever you have the opportunity. The fitness professionals we talked to said they encourage their clients to do an exercise “snack” at least one minute per hour. This snacking strategy can be as simple as standing up to pace around in a circle before responding to emails, or doing a set of squats while you’re waiting for your lunch to heat up in the microwave -- anything that qualifies as exercise.
Examples of Exercise Snacks
Whether you want you want to get in shape for your upcoming vacation to the Canary Islands, or you just want to avoid the effects of sitting at a desk all day, personal trainers say that exercise snacking is a fantastic way to get in better physical condition when time is at a premium.
Here are their top recommendations for those who want to try exercise snacks for the first time.
All the personal trainers we talked to agreed that walking is still a hugely underrated weight loss strategy; it’s just a matter of remembering to walk when the opportunity presents itself. Walking may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of exercise snacks, but it can undoubtedly be an effective weight loss strategy. To help you remember to get in more steps, set an alarm on your phone that prompts you to get up and walk a little bit once every hour.
Another personal trainer told us that he encouraged his clients to carry around a water bottle with them during the day. This makes bathroom breaks more frequent which means more reasons to take a walk.
Turn Your Office into a Gym
Another fitness professional in the Canary Wharf area told us she encourages her clients to invest in resistance bands and keep them in their offices, a location where they spend most of their time. “Having these devices immediately available makes exercise snacking very effective, and it essentially eliminates all excuses for not exercising,” she told us. When you have 5 or 10 minutes, use these resistance bands to get in 12 to 15 reps of exercises like dumbbell curls, shoulder presses, or seated lat rows on the floor; try and get in two to three sets of each exercise.
Take Advantage of Commercial Breaks
One trainer told us that she has seen her clients make tremendous progress towards their fitness goals by taking advantage of evening commercials. Who doesn’t watch TV at night to unwind these days? The commercials that air during nighttime TV provide us with the ultimate “exercise snacking” opportunity.
Here are a few examples of activity snacks we can do during commercials:
Do 3 sets of 10 wall pushups
Stand up facing the wall and place your palms outward and slightly wider than your shoulders. Step back from the wall a bit and do 10 wall pushups. This is an excellent body weight exercise to strengthen your upper body muscles.
Do 3 sets of 10 Squats
Squats are a great bodyweight exercise that engages all the major muscle groups of your lower body, including the quads and calves. Performing 3 sets of ten will not only strengthen your lower body muscles, but it will also get your blood pumping to add a bit of cardio to your exercise snacking.
They may not be fun, but they’re oh-so-effective. That staircase in your home or office is genuinely free fitness equipment that you need to start taking advantage of. In fact, stair climbing got a huge boost in popularity during the pandemic when we were locked out of our gyms but still wanted to achieve our weight loss goals. Two or three times a day you should take 20 to 30 seconds to go up and down a flight of stairs. Make it a goal to do stair climbing as an exercise snack 3 or 4 days during the week.
Talk to a Personal Trainer
Look. Fitness goals are difficult to achieve, but personal training has evolved dramatically over the past few years. Today, personal trainers are becoming incredibly popular as people get fed up with trying to reach their fitness goals on their own. If you’re interested in making exercise snacks work for you, personal trainers have the expertise to look at your fitness goals and show you what exercise snacks will help you achieve them in the shortest amount of time.