Exercise Snacking // The Habit the Curbs Cravings, Builds Strength,and rivals the benefits Gym Sessions.

Lately, I've found it a bit difficult to make it to the gym.  I would love to work out 4 times a week but time just doesn't seem to be on my side.  Because exercise has so many benefits (and summer is fast approaching), I've been on the lookout for a hack that can give me similar results with less time investment.

Thankfully, I stumbled on the perfect solution.  It's called exercise snacking.  I don't want to be dramatic, but exercise snacking will probably change your entire life.
What exactly is exercise snacking?  Well, technically, there are 2 definitions.  The most common meaning for the term refers to breaking up your workouts into smaller bite-size sessions. Typically, it's recommended that we work out for at least 30 minutes to an hour per session for optimal benefits.  But recently, studies have shown that bite-sized workout sessions can actually produce real benefits.

If you live a sedentary lifestyle and don't have time to fit in trips to the gym, exercise snacking might be the answer to all of your problems. A study was conducted where individuals who were asked to climb three flights of stairs, three separate times a day.  They were also instructed to complete this minimal workout routine three days a week for six weeks.

At the conclusion of the six week time period, researchers measure their cardiovascular fitness levels. When compared to the non-exercise snacking control group, those who engaged in bite-sized exercise sessions exhibited improved cardiovascular fitness and an increase in strength.  Years ago, I incorporated a similar routine when I worked in an office.  Each bathroom break, I would run up several flights of stairs.  Weeks later, I noticed a huge improvement in the ease in which I was able to complete my sessions.  I also noticed increased muscle tone in my legs.  Snacking on exercise prior to my bathroom breaks seemed to work well for me.



In another small study, inactive adults were broken up into groups and asked to take brisk 30-minute walks or do five minute walks 6 times a day.  The end goal of the experiment is to determine if blood sugar levels of the two groups differed as a result of the exercise.  Glucose and triglyceride levels of the walking group dropped by around 40% of the days when they walked for 30 minutes.  What's exciting is that the group that broke their workout into tiny sessions also enjoyed a 40% decline in blood sugar and triglycerides.  The more regulated our blood sugar levels, the less fat we store.

If that's not motivation enough for you to get into the exercise snacking craze, I want to share one more exciting benefit.

One huge hurdle that we often must climb when trying to lose weight is overcoming cravings.  Well, it seems that exercise snacking may be a powerful tool against actual snacking.  A study of 8 overweight participants was conducted to test the impact of short interval sessions on hunger. The participants enjoyed a breakfast then were given lunch four hours later.  The exercise snacking group completed a 2 minutes workout (in 30 second bursts) 2 hours after breakfast.  Those who exercised between breakfast and lunch experienced fewer feelings of hunger for around 2 hours after the interval session was complete.  This wasn't just subjective.  Researchers actually tested their blood for levels of the hormone that creates feelings of hunger (ghrelin).  Across the board, the exercise group had lower levels of the hunger hormone.  Here's the best part, when lunch rolled around, the exercise group didn't have the urge to consume any additional calories than their counterparts (even though they could eat as much as they wanted).

So not only does short exercise sessions help lower blood sugar levels, and increase cardiovascular strength, it can also act as a literal snack by helping to keep you from becoming hungry.  There is absolutely no reason why you couldn't exercise for minutes a day, several times a day. We can do it during commercial breaks, before bathroom breaks, or you can use your Fitbit device to buzz on an hourly basis to remind you to move throughout the day.  Mine buzzes 50 minutes into each hour.  Knowing what I know now, I'll take advantage of every reminder.



The last benefit I've experienced from exercise snacking that it acts as a gateway into full workout sessions. I start off by working out in small chunks every day, next thing I know, I'm motivated to go back to the gym again!  At the very least, I'm excited to take advantage of the lowered fat and sugar levels in my blood for my long term health.

Everyone can work out in 5 minute sessions.

No excuses.   
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  1. This is a great concept - I am going to try this out starting tomorrow!

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