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Exercise Snacking 101

Who doesn’t love a snack? Nobody, that’s who. And while your mind is probably already imagining big buttery bowls of popcorn or packets of lip-smacking chips, we’re actually talking about a different kind of snacking this time – exercise snacking.

So, what is it? ‘Exercise snacking’ refers to short bursts of activity (i.e bite-sized ones) that are incorporated into your day. According to this article in the Washington Post, exercise snacking may in fact be better for you than your regular workout. Anything ranging from 30 seconds up to 10 minutes could be interpreted as an exercise snack, which makes it much easier to fit into our busy, time-starved lives.

Exercise snacking is also extremely practical – you can fit them in by running up and down the stairs in your office building for two minutes, for example, or getting up from your chair and doing a set of 20 squats.

The basic idea is that instead of dedicating a full 45 minutes or hour to exercise per day, you can break this up into smaller portions that are much easier to fit around your other required daily activities and are just as (or more!) effective in the long run.

A real impact

But does exercise snacking really have an impact on your health and fitness? Fitness trainer Ashleigh Iovino has an app that trains women remotely all over the world and she’s a huge fan of the concept. “Exercise snacking is really just about increasing NEAT without necessarily dedicating a specific time slot to ‘move’ and I love the idea,” she says.

But what is NEAT? Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) is the energy we expend on everything we do that is not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise and it actually burns 15% of your daily calories, whereas your one-hour workout at the gym only burns 5%.

Surprised? So were we. It makes sense then, that we should all be aiming for a less sedentary existence, especially because many studies have shown the adverse health effects of constant sitting, including blood sugar and cholesterol problems, no matter how much you exercise.

The research on the health benefits of exercise snacking is so convincing that the WHO recently changed its recommended guidelines for weekly exercise, removing the minimum time for a workout in 2020 from at least 10 minutes.

How to start exercise snacking

Keen to start exercise snacking? Here are some activities to try:

· A 30 second or 1-minute plank

· 10-15 burpees (if you have lower back issues, it may be better to step backwards instead of jumping your feet out)

· A set of 20 jumping jacks

· 15-20 chair squats (where you hover just above your seat as you squat down)

· Instead of eating your lunch at your desk, grab your sandwich and walk around the block while you eat.

· Climb the stairs instead of taking the lift

· 15-20 push-ups

· 10-15 lunges on each leg

· 15-20 tricep dips on your office chair or a bench

· Skipping with a skipping rope for one or two minutes

The health benefits of exercise snacking are clearly numerous, from building muscle strength and cardiovascular health, to helping control blood sugar levels if performed before meals and preventing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other related conditions.

This can have knock on effects on other areas of your life as well, for example by saving money on medication or your medical aid contributions if you belong to a medical scheme. Fedhealth, for example, offers a range of flexiFED plans that allow you to pay less each month for medical savings you’re not using.

Workout snacking means that there are no more excuses anymore that you simply ‘don’t have the time to exercise.’ Making our lives less sedentary should be a goal for all of us, and the exercise snacking trend is a way of ensuring that we incorporate more movement into our days, ultimately improving our mental and physical health.

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