If we’ve been sitting at a desk for a long time, or relaxing watching a film or TV programme, there are often times when we’ve felt the need to get up and move – and often it will be in the direction of the kitchen where it is easy to find a food snack or drink.
Whilst the steps to the kitchen are beneficial (more and more research is indicating that some movement is better than none – even from the first step) the calories that will be taken on board from the snack will typically not be so beneficial.
The WHO guidelines for exercise recommend 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week. For some these figures can be a challenge – but like any significant goal, it’s always better to break it down into smaller chunks.
If we take the 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week, this will average out at just under 22 minutes per day – already a much more manageable target.
The concept of exercise snacking is not completely new – it has grown out of the research on high-intensity interval training (HIIT) where people work at high intensity for a burst and then have some active rest time. In the gym these exercise bursts can last from between 30 seconds to four minutes.
Exercise snacking can be shorter than this and is a great way to break up a long day sitting at a desk. If you were to create seven opportunities in a working day to complete an exercise snack, each one would be about 3 minutes – this could be a brisk walk round the garden or round the block, starting or completing a household chore, walking up and down stairs three or four times (great for the glutes by the way), or doing some active stretching along with some star jumps.
The key is that the body is moving – the biggest muscles are in our legs and if we don’t use them for long periods there is a cellular effect that makes our bodies less good at breaking down certain fats; so, whilst the total amount of time a person sits contributes to health risks, it is worse when uninterrupted for long periods of time.
If you think you might forget to get up and move there are many things that can help – from alarms and apps on our phones, the timer on the cooker, and even a screen time app on your computer which will send it to sleep and lock you out for a while.
So next time you feel like reaching for a food snack, think about an exercise snack instead – grab a glass of water and get outside for 3 or 4 minutes – apart from helping your body it will also improve alertness and brain function for your next task.
Give it a go and see what happens, your body will thank you for it.