Snack Your Way to Better Health with ‘Bite-Sized’ Exercise Breaks

Want to boost your daily physical activity? Enjoy exercise ‘snacks’

By Daniel Meyer

I have simple advice for anyone who wants to drop a few pounds or has a desire to increase their overall level of physical activity: take more snack breaks.

I’m not referencing daily doughnut consumption in between breakfast and lunch, regular mid-afternoon chow sessions courtesy of the closest vending machine or even those occasional late-night indulgences of ice cream.

I am speaking about something I have been doing regularly for the past few months that is a relatively easy way to incorporate short bursts of activity into a typical day to help combat the well-documented negative effects of sitting for long periods of time.

Embracing the concept of “exercise snacks” is something I committed to after reading news articles and scientific study summaries on how moving several times a day can produce meaningful gains in fitness and overall health.

A registered dietitian who I spoke with last year believes it is important to regularly monitor the balance of time we all spend exercising versus how often we are sedentary and not engaged in some type of movement.

Exercise snacks can involve indoor or outdoor activities. With the cold weather months now upon us, I will suggest some exercise snacks that can be used by anyone who prefers to stay indoors.

Some of these routines are so simple and basic that you will likely welcome the mindset of movement being an essential part of your day no matter how busy you may be at work or at home.

Full disclosure: my personal obsession with how many steps I take every day drives me to earmark time for regular exercise snack breaks. I use a wristwatch FitBit step counter with a daily step goal of 15,000. What I have found is that exercise snacking throughout my normal workday often gets me anywhere from 10,000 to 12,000 steps during a typical eight-hour workday.

My daily step goal combined with a concentrated focus on regular exercise snacking makes me more mindful about the small ways I can disrupt a sedentary lifestyle while working as well as when I at home. For example, I will make the effort to take the stairs instead of riding on the elevator at least once per day when at the office and I always park my vehicle in one of the farthest vacant spaces when I visit a grocery store, bank or any type of dining establishment or retail shopping location. I also pace while speaking with someone on the telephone by using the speaker phone option when appropriate. I also strategically schedule select calls so that I can “walk-and-talk” using my cellular telephone.

When previously working out at a traditional fitness center a few times a week, I would typically accomplish approximately one hour of movement during each of those exercise sessions. Thanks to my exercise snacking routine I now regularly find myself being actively engaged in physical activity of some type for close to two hours a day (sometimes even more than that) without a scheduled “gym workout” being part of my daily routine.

I have decided to make 2022 the year of exercise snacking enjoyment. I believe anyone reading this can adopt the same mindset and be able to realize how exercising at the office or at home is completely changed by replacing the pressure of committing to lengthy sweat sessions with quick-and-easy “movement moments” that can be enjoyable ways to engage in physical activity.

While I cannot guarantee that my newfound love of these micro-workouts will encourage you to become a frequent consumer of exercise snacks, I can say it’s a concept that can reframe our collective mindset about physical activity. By overcoming the perception of exercise being a dreaded chore, we can replace that doom-and-gloom mentality by viewing physical movement of any type as a treat that can make you feel good when you accomplish it as part of the ongoing quest to effectively improve our personal health.

Featured Image: Writer Daniel Meyer performs ‘snack’ exercises in his at-home office in Hamburg.“I have decided to make 2022 the year of exercise snacking enjoyment,” he says.

Exercise Snacking Suggestions

Exercise snacks help increase activity levels, burn calories and provide unique opportunities for mental health breaks. They offer brief but important moments of physical activity that are the perfect way to integrate movement into your daily life.

The following exercise snacking suggestions can be implemented into your normal daily routine.

➤ Early morning walk
Start your morning with a quick walk, either outdoors or inside your home.
Lay out your walking attire the night before so you have no excuse after you wake up to get a five- or 10-minute walk in before you take a shower, brush your teeth or take that first sip of coffee.

➤ Deep breathing/intense stretching
Many of us have busy lifestyles, but we all should be able to find the time to conduct some focused deep breathing and intense finger-tip-to-toes-while-seated stretching.
Break down mental barriers and help to relieve stress by engaging in breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth and then commencing elongated 30-second stretches of your legs while seated.

➤ Fifteen minute walk every three hours
Walking is an easy activity that doesn’t have to involve significant chunks of time.
Break your day up into four three-hour blocks (9 a.m. to noon, noon to 3 p.m., 3 to 6 p.m., 6 to 9 p.m.) and commit yourself to take one 15-minute walk during each of those time periods.
That results in one hour of activity in addition to your normal exercise routine.

➤ Push ups/sit ups
An easy routine to squeeze into your day is activating your arm muscles and your abdominal region by small sets of push-ups and sit-ups or crunches.
A quick session of 10 push-ups immediately followed by 10 sit-ups or crunches completed three times a day (morning, afternoon, evening) is a realistic goal.

➤ Television timeout
I may be dating myself in today’s age of streaming services and TV series binge-watching, but doing something physical during commercial breaks if watching a traditional broadcast or cable television program helps sneak in physical activity, especially in the evening when many people sit or lay down for extended periods of time.

Walking up and down your basement stairs or from your first floor to the second level of your dwelling or walking from room to room if you don’t have access to stairs is one option.
Other “TV timeout” possibilities include jumping jacks, split squat jumps, high knee walking, leg lifts, walking lunges, strength training with hand weights, head-to-toe stretching.

By Daniel Meyer