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Health

The Fitness Trend We’ve Been Craving: Exercise Snacks

Got 12 minutes? Short intervals of exercise can benefit metabolic health, muscle tone, mood and more.

When I turned 40, I was also newly expecting. Throughout the pregnancy, I was sure to stay healthy by continuing my daily workout routine of walking, yoga and resistance training. Although I showed myself grace when I didn’t have enough energy to complete a full workout, I was consistent. Each workout, usually taking up to 30 minutes or an hour, was a small sacrifice to pay for keeping myself and my unborn child healthy.

While the labor and delivery went well, the postpartum period presented challenges I wasn’t quite ready for. About two weeks after giving birth, I was hospitalized (twice) for blood clots in the deep veins of my right leg, or deep vein thrombosis (DVT). The clot was a massive full blockage from groin to ankle. The DVT left my entire right leg swollen and heavy, and it left me unable to walk. Throughout a proposed six-month recovery, my doctor said that walking and movement was actually the best way to help dissolve the clot over the coming months.

… 12-minute exercise bursts improve metabolic health, help govern insulin resistance, reduce oxidative stress and inflammation and promote longevity.

But how was I going to work out with a pain so great that I couldn’t be on my feet for an extended period of time? Cue exercise snacks.

What are exercise snacks?


The second my doctor and physical therapist suggested I get back to moving by incorporating exercise snacks throughout the day, I immediately thought, “Wait, they want me to eat during workouts?” But that’s not what they meant. Exercise snacks are short intervals of movement as opposed to longer, more formal workouts. For instance, an accumulated day of exercise snacks might include a few 10-minute walks in between longer bouts of sitting or stretching periodically during the day. According to the American Heart Association and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of high intensity exercise per week. These numbers can be overwhelming if you are super busy. Traditional workouts like a resistance training session or 3-mile walk can take anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour to complete.

The benefits of nibbling


Short intervals of movement have many benefits for your overall health. A recent Harvard-affiliated study indicates that 12-minute exercise bursts improve metabolic health, help govern insulin resistance, reduce oxidative stress and inflammation and promote longevity.

Practical exercise snacks to try at home or on the go


Incorporating exercise snacks into your daily routine doesn’t have to be difficult. Ashley Brailsford, 38, founder of a nature-based family experiences program, Unearthing Joy, naturally works short intervals of exercise into her day seamlessly. “If we use children as the model for how exercise snacks work, we see that allowing individuals to engage in free play outside is the catalyst for movement,” says Brailsford. “Playing tag and throwing objects to each other is just as important as a planned workout.”

In addition to outdoor play, there are many exercise snacks to try at home or on the go, including:

  • Marching or jogging in place
  • Jumping jacks, squats or lunges
  • Parking your car further away or taking the stairs
  • Tending to your garden
  • Cleaning the house
  • Stretching or yoga poses
  • Using a floor pedal exerciser while working
  • Taking a brisk walk during a break 

Exercise snacks for the win! Spending less time working out doesn’t have to mean sacrificing your health.

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