Exercise snacks: keeping workouts short and sweet

Many of us lead busy lives and finding time to stay fit may seem impossible. But, recent studies indicate that staying healthy may take far less time than we thought. While you may not get six-pack abs in 30 seconds a day, short bursts of exercise spaced throughout the day may put you on the fast track to better health.

Interval-style exercise

Often when we think about exercise, our views are of traditional exercise such as taking a 30-minute walk. But, scientists are increasingly finding that using more condensed strenuous exercise sessions, sort of an “exercise snack,” multiple times in one day may be just as healthy as more traditional exercise. For instance, instead of taking a 30-minute walk, an exercise snack approach may have you alternate brisk and slow walking for 12 minutes, then repeat this twice more throughout the day.

These short exercises share the basic principles of interval training, which has become very popular in the fitness world. Any activity that rapidly increases your heart rate and leaves you panting can be used as an exercise snack, such as:

  • Jumping rope intensely
  • Swimming vigorously
  • Doing jumping jacks
  • Biking in bursts

Recent studies have examined how this sort of exercise can affect our health. One study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that running for an average of as little as five minutes a day could significantly lower the risk of premature death. This study looked at those who ran any amount versus those who did no running. Those who ran for hours per week at a fast pace received health benefits, but so did people who ran an average of only five or ten minutes per day. Both groups had noticeably lower risk of premature death than those who did not run. The researchers believe that it’s not running itself that is the key, but instead individuals partaking in moderately intense exercise on a regular basis — even if only for a few minutes a day.

Another small study published in Diabetologia looked at these exercise snacks and how they compare to a traditional, continuous workout. It examined how exercise affected blood sugar levels throughout the day for people who had blood sugar problems. Findings showed that having multiple short exercises before each meal was more beneficial for blood sugar levels than a continuous workout once per day

Find your pace

No matter your approach, it is recommended that you get 75 minutes of vigorous exercise or 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. If you’re interested in trying out the exercise snack approach to fitness, talk with your doctor at Baptist Beaumont Hospital. He or she can help determine what exercises are appropriate for you.


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Partners In Education Program with All Saint’s Episcopal School. Hospital employees donate their time and talents to educate students and faculty on healthy lifestyles.