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  • Writer's pictureAlex May

Exercise Snacks: A Novel Strategy to Improve Cardiometabolic Health

You may have heard the phrase "sitting is the new smoking." This refers to the fact that prolonged sitting can be detrimental to our health, leading to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and other health conditions. But what if you don't have time to go to the gym or take a long walk during the day?Enter "exercise snacks," a novel strategy to improve cardiometabolic health in just a few minutes.


 

What Are Exercise Snacks?

Exercise snacks are short bouts of physical activity, lasting anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes. They can be done throughout the day whenever you have a few spare moments. Examples of exercise snacks include:



  • Climbing a few flights of stairs

  • Doing a set of push-ups or squats

  • Taking a brisk walk around the block

  • Jumping jacks or other simple calisthenics

 

Why Are Exercise Snacks Effective?

Research has shown that exercise snacks can be an effective way to improve cardiometabolic health. A study published in the journal Diabetologia found that short bouts of intense exercise, performed 3 times a day, were more effective at improving insulin sensitivity and glucose control in sedentary adults than a single 30-minute session of moderate-intensity exercise. Another study published in the American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism found that brief periods of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) improved insulin sensitivity and glucose control in overweight adults.


While Exercise snacks and HIIT are similar, exercise snacks focus on incorporating short bursts of physical activity into everyday routines. These are brief, concentrated bouts of exercise that can be performed multiple times throughout the day, often lasting only a few minutes. The aim is to accumulate a significant amount of activity over the course of a day.


HIIT on the other hand, typically involves short bursts of intense exercise followed by brief recovery periods. The intense intervals are performed at maximum effort, usually lasting anywhere from 20 seconds to 2 minutes. The total duration of a HIIT workout is typically around 10 to 30 minutes.


The benefits of exercise snacks may be due to their ability to increase muscle activation and improve blood flow to the muscles, which can enhance insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake. Exercise snacks can also boost metabolism and improve cardiovascular health by increasing heart rate and respiratory rates, which can burn calories and strengthen the heart.


 

How to Incorporate Exercise Snacks into Your Day

Incorporating exercise snacks into your day is easy and can be done in a variety of settings. Exercise snacks are flexible and adaptable to individual preferences and schedules. They can involve any form of physical activity, such as brisk walking, climbing stairs, jumping jacks, or bodyweight exercises. These exercise bouts can be performed whenever there is a short break or free time during the day.


Here are a few tips to get started:


  1. Set a reminder: Use your phone or computer to set reminders throughout the day to take a short exercise break.

  2. Get creative: Look for opportunities to sneak in exercise snacks throughout the day. For example, take the stairs instead of the elevator, do squats while you brush your teeth, or take a walk around the block during your lunch break.

  3. Start small: Begin with just a few exercise snacks per day and gradually increase the duration or intensity as you get more comfortable.

  4. Make it social: Get your family, friends, or colleagues involved and make exercise snacks a group activity.

 

Exercise snacks are a simple and effective way to improve your cardiometabolic health, even if you don't have time for a full workout. You can improve insulin sensitivity, glucose control, and cardiovascular health by taking short breaks throughout the day to engage in physical activity. So the next time you're feeling sedentary, try a quick exercise snack and see how it makes you feel!


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