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Why you should integrate small bursts of movement throughout your day

Exercise snacks can help us all reach our goals.

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Photo by Volkan Olmez on Unsplash

So many of us have fallen for the ClassPass, HIIT, mega blast of exercise approach.

We spend most of our days sedentarily. While our ancestors hunted, swam and searched for food, we can order everything from the comfort of our desks. We barely even have to get up.

As we should all be aware by now, sitting at a desk all day is murder for your health. It puts you at greater risk for a range of health outcomes like lumbago, ruins your posture and insidiously alters how you move.

One quick blast of exercise, even a really tough one each day, is going to struggle to undo the effects of sitting down all the time. It could even make things worse as tougher exercise will cause your body to stiffen up, requiring self care or even enlisting a massage therapist or similar to ease your aches and pains.

You’ll be cramping up at your desk and after your exercise.

The Exercise Snack

This is where the Exercise Snack comes in. Celebrity trainer and Nike ambassador Joe Holder has coined the phrase. It’s basically working in small bursts of exercise throughout your day.

If this sounds like it could be onerous – doing burpees on the hour or setting alarms to remind you to do things, turning your waking hours into a Pavlovian nightmare – then it’s up too you to make sure it’s not.

Holder isn’t talking about making this approach completely functional. He’s suggesting building activity into your day.

People often think a short duration has to mean a high level of exertion. But sometimes my snack is just ten minutes of stretching and five minutes of jump-roping.

Joe Holder

What do you do when you wake up? Could you have a quick stretch? Could you do some bodyweight exercise? What would you do given the choice?

Because you have the choice.

When you go to work, how do you get there? Could you park further away and walk the last mile? Could you get the subway and then get out early? Could you ride your bike?

These are all potential exercise snacks – movement rather than training.

What do you do for lunch? Could you walk down the street and get something or bring in your own lunch but take it to the park?

You could still do your workout later if that’s what you want. Of course you can go running, or lift weights or go to the climbing wall. No one’s suggesting you stop. Challenging yourself to do difficult things has its own benefits and exercise snacks won’t help you achieve all your fitness goals.

However, professional athletes train multiple times a day. If you have one big session you like to do, a few short stretches, a bit of jump rope or a short walk isn’t going to compromise your performance. In fact, it’ll probably help by helping you recover and loosen top between your training sessions.

The more times you can move each day, the better you’ll feel and eventually, the healthier you’ll be.

Exercise snacks aren’t meant to be onerous. They’re snacks! Everyone likes snacking. They build activity in throughout the day, taking little time and little cognition, but they’ll chip chip away at you, combatting the effects of everyday life without you realising.

Having that stretch while you watch Netflix, or right before you go to sleep will only take you 5-10 minutes. Doing it regularly though, will benefit you for years afterwards.

Mobility in particular benefits from small bursts of practice. If you can do it regularly throughout the day then well, you’re going to find that what you thought was impossible is achievable far quicker than you think.

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