Exercise Snacks (exercising in small 5- to 10-minute increments through the day) yield the same, if not slightly better, results than one big session at the gym.
And we are not just talking about waistline — exercise snacking demonstrates improvement across fasting insulin, fasting glucose, lipids, and cardiorespiraory fitness. They also show a slightly better outcome in body weight and LDL cholesterol!
January is a busy month for gyms. If you’ve just joined a gym, or even if you’re a seasoned muscle mommy like me, you may be feeling some of your original New Year’s goals already falling by the wayside. But have no fear — if you’ve set a goal and are having a hard time keeping up with an aggressive gym schedule you’ve set for yourself — I have a solution for you!
Simple exercise snacks.
Since the pandemic, more and more people work from home either permanently or have a hybrid model working from home and being in an office. What has emerged are new work norms that allow you more freedom to find opportunities in your day for movement.
I’ve always said moving consistently through the day trumps one big workout followed by sitting for 12 hours. And there’s robust scientific evidence to back this up.
This meta-analysis looked at 19 studies with a total of 1080 participants. They were looking for studies that evaluated whether one bout (continuous) of exercise was better, worse, or equal to the same exercise broken into smaller pieces through the day (cumulative or what I am referring to as “exercise snacking”).
They controlled for intensity of the exercise, duration, and type of exercise. Said another way: they were looking for the exact same workout either 1) completed in a single session, or 2) broken up into smaller chunks over the course of the day.
Results showed that the exercise snack group and the single bout group both reduced their total body mass, but the exercise snack group fared slightly better. The exercise snack group and the continuous exercise group both improved their LDL cholesterol, with the snackers faring slightly better here as well.
Both groups improved their total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, triglycerides, fasting blood glucose, and fasting insulin.
Bottom line: both a continuous session at the gym AND exercise snacks can yield comparable results.
There’s mounting evidence that exercise snacks have incredibly positive benefits on your health:
Pretty compelling, right?
Exercise snacks also alleviate the pressure to get in a big exercise session every day. If you’re able to replicate a 1-hour workout in smaller pieces through the day, the results seem to be equivalent at worst, and superior in terms of body mass and cholesterol levels at best.
You’ve got two options on how to implement exercise snacks. You can use either option or a combination of both.
In order for this to work, you have to think about the intensity and duration of your regular workouts. You’ll want to match your regular, continuous workout by breaking it down into smaller bits.
So, if you are working out for 60 minutes, your exercise snacks should add up to 60 minutes over the course of the day. That could be 6 x 10-minute sessions, or 12 x 50-minute sessions. And you MUST match the intensity of your regular workout.
Intensity is subjective, but you can think about it on a scale of one to 10: One being pretty low intensity, and 10 being all out. If your continuous workout was an eight, the exercise snacks also have to be an eight.
This is a GREAT option if you struggle with the time commitment for a bigger gym session, if you travel frequently, or if you’re the family chauffeur driving kids to after-school activities.
In full transparency, this option is what I like to do. I’m one of those people who actually enjoys going to the gym. But after researching this topic for this week’s newsletter, I’m going to incorporate more exercise snacks into my day — even on days I get in a workout.
Exercise snacks are a blessing on travel days, when I’ve slept in and don’t make it to the gym, or for hectic days when I’m just not getting to the gym that day. It’s reassuring to know that these days aren’t a regression, but a progression.
And frankly, these exercise snacks are one of the few reasons I get my sprint training in on my CAROL Bike. I can pop on it and in 5 minutes, I’ve done 3 x 20 second all-out sprints — and haven’t broken a sweat! (If you find you’re interested in a CAROL Bike, you’ll get a discount using code DRSTEPHANIE.)
Here are some of my favourite exercise snacks. I encourage you to try these and be creative with your own based on how you like to exercise.
Let us know if you already have some great exercise snacks. Or, if you’re inspired to create new ones, share those, too. Reply to this email and we’ll compile some of the best ideas from you in a downloadable PDF!
I’m preparing a bigger newsletter for you on peri-exercise fuel, but here are some guidelines following a workout.
I always follow any lift session or cardio with a combination of protein and carbohydrates. On mornings when I exercise early, this will be breakfast. One recent morning I had five egg whites + one whole egg omelette on a piece of sourdough toast. On the side was 1/4 avocado and some fruit. I also treat myself to a cappuccino with whole fat milk. Not a Starbucks triple grande venti purple long short with sprinkles and foam (or whatever the cool cats are drinking these days) but a regular 3/4 cup-sized cappuccino cup.
If I am about to get my period, I’ll also add in one scoop of protein in water as my “drink” instead of water. I do this because I know I’m going to be hungrier in week four of my cycle, and I preempt that with more calories and specifically more protein.
(If you want to learn more about eating around your cycle, check out my book, The Betty Body.)
I’ll be answering your questions every week right here in the Mini Pause! Let me know what’s on your mind. I’ll be checking for both questions and feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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I’m part geek, part magic and it’s my mission to be a voice for women who just aren’t getting the answers they need about their health - whether that’s from their friends, their family or their primary health providers.