If you don’t have time for an hour-long workout, a more practical approach is to do. Exercise snacks are short bursts of vigorous exercise done intermittently throughout the day. Doing brief movements throughout the day can have the same benefits as a longer workout.
Because of the nature of exercise snacks, they may also have some heart-health benefits. Research has shown that 1 or 2 minutes of vigorous exercise in intervals throughout the day can improve your heart health by boosting your cardiovascular fitness. Exercise snacks replicate the benefits of high-intensity interval training, but the rest times are generally longer. Instead of exercising for 20 or 30 minutes, you can add movement throughout the day as it fits your schedule.
A UK study found that those who participated in vigorous intermittent lifestyle physical activity (three bouts of 1 to 2 minutes of vigorous exercise daily) reduced their risk of cancer or other causes by 38% to 40%. It also found that participants reduced their risk of cardiovascular disease by 48% to 49%. Another study looked at healthy older adults and observed how exercise snacking improved their muscle function. Results showed their leg muscle power and size improved over the 28-day program. So it’s nice to know that you can get all the benefits of exercise snacking, regardless of your age or fitness level.
If you don’t have time to follow a structured workout routine, give exercise snacks a shot so you can still gain those heart health benefits. Below are some exercise snack ideas to get you started and are easy enough to do anywhere throughout the day.
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Take the stairs
If you live in an apartment building, have stairs in your home or if they’re part of your commute, take advantage of them to get your heart rate up. Aim for vigorous stair climbing throughout the day when you have the time. One study showed improvement in patients with coronary artery disease by doing three rounds of climbing six flights of 12 stairs, with recovery periods of walking. The study compared how stair climbing and traditional moderate-intensity exercise affected participants’ cardiorespiratory fitness.
Researchers found that stair climbers had a higher heart rate percentage across a shorter exercise time during the first four weeks of supervised testing. However, both groups continued their exercise routine for an additional eight weeks unsupervised and managed to maintain their heart rate level percentage. The difference was that the stair climbers continued to exercise for less time. So if climbing the stairs is the most exercise you can do during the day, you might as well do that exercise intentionally.
Go for a walk
Going for a brisk walk can keep your heart healthy. The Heart Foundation recommends aiming for 30 minutes of walking a day. Another way to approach your walking goal is to break it up 10 minutes at a time, three times daily, to reap the same benefits. Just make sure it’s a moderate to vigorous effort so you’ll get your heart rate up.
If you work in an office or from home, chances are you spend a lot of time sitting. Taking the time to move, even if it’s to get in some quick bodyweight exercise, it can do wonders for your heart health. While taking breaks from your desk, set up an interval timer and play around with bodyweight squats, lunges, push-ups, jumping jacks, bear crawls, planks and more.
Sometimes getting in touch with your inner child is a helpful way to get motivated to exercise. Jumping rope is a fun way to get your heart rate up while improving your cardiovascular health in short periods. One idea suggested by Nike Master Trainer Joe Holder is to pick up a jump rope and jump for five rounds of 1 minute each, playing around either with the intensity or variety of jumping. The more you improve your cardio fitness, the more you can increase the time of your workout to keep yourself challenged.
Do some chores
Believe it or not, you can get a good workout by doing some chores around your home. Whether that’s gardening, vacuuming, cleaning or organizing your home, you can get the benefits of a workout while keeping your life in order. It goes to show you that you don’t need a gym to get a workout in, especially when plenty of daily activities count and you may not realize it.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.