I think it’s safe to say that with many of us that have been strictly working from home, physical activity has taken the biggest hit these last few months. As an exercise professional, I’m a little embarrassed to look at my step count average since March and find my motivation to start (and finish) an at home workout can be pretty low.
Being stuck at home in a tiny office, kitchen, or whatever impromptu work space you’ve created, we’ve unconsciously eliminated many small pieces of exercise we may have been completing at our workplace. Think about your standard work day prior to COVID-19 compared to now. How many little trips, breaks, or small things did you do that allowed for movement…
That trip to grab a cup of coffee? Walking from your car, up the flight of stairs to the office? The flow of cycling around the office to notify co-workers of the cute cat picture you saw on the internet? Unfortunately for many of us, these have been eliminated for the foreseeable future.
These little bites of exercise throughout our day, while miniscule, are an important part of breaking hours of sedentary time and maintaining our physical fitness. So, what can we do about it?
Introducing… Exercise Snacks! A time efficient way to improve your physical activity at home and without much, if any, equipment.
Quite simply, if you imagine a “set” of exercises as a “snack”, have a few snacks throughout the day to add to your exercise routine.
Let me give an example:
My favorite exercise “snack” is the dumbbell squat (shown below). I work from home and sit at my desk for at least 8 hours (oof!). So to break up my desk time I have an exercise snack every hour. Which means by the end of the day I’ve had 7-8 exercise “snacks” which turns out to be 140-160 squats.
Doesn’t seem like much each time you do it but it sure adds up! And it gets me out of my chair, moving and feeling a heck of a lot better.
While the general belief is you need to do a large volume of exercise for benefits… that’s not always true. Even a little does a lot, especially when we are largely sedentary and working at our desks all day. In fact, a 2017 study1 found that three 20 second stair climbing sessions 3 days a week saw a significant improvement in cardiovascular health. That’s right – 60 seconds of intense exercise a day can improve our fitness.
So take a bite out of some exercise “snacks” and improve your fitness, reduce your sitting time, and end your work day feeling great instead of drained. I always aim for at least 4 a day to keep me feeling fresh. Need some “snack” ideas? Here are my favorites!
Exercise 1: The bodyweight squat (aim for 15-20 each time)
Exercise 2: The “Kitchen Counter” Push-Up (aim for 10-12)
Exercise 3: The Plank (aim for 20-30 seconds – or as long as you can hold it!)
The most common barrier to exercise reported is lack of time and with exercise “snacks” we’ve removed as much of that barrier as possible. So give them a try! A few minutes of exercise just a few times a day can be a great way to push up your activity level, fitness, and overall health.
Michael Shelver, MS
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- Allison MK, Baglole JH, Martin BJ, Macinnis MJ, Gurd BJ, Gibala MJ. Brief Intense Stair Climbing Improves Cardiorespiratory Fitness [published correction appears in Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2017 Mar;49(3):626]. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2017;49(2):298-307. doi:10.1249/MSS.0000000000001188