Exercise Snacks


A recent study by the Columbia University exercise physiologists found that “just five minutes of walking every half hour during periods of prolonged sitting can offset some of the most harmful effects”. The study, led by Keith Diaz, PhD, associate professor of behavioral medicine at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, was published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the journal of the American College of Sports Medicine.

What is Exercise Snacks?

According to University British Columbia: “Exercise “snacks” grew out of the concept of high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and sprint interval training (SIT), in which you exert yourself for a short period, rest for a short period, and then repeat. These time-efficient workouts are usually done in bouts of about 10 to 25 minutes and have well-established physiological benefits.”

We’re living a more sedentary life. We have a lot of office jobs. We’re sitting around a lot more. “Exercise snacks” work as a reminder to just get up and move every so often.

– Exercise Physiologist Katie Lawton, MEd (Cleveland Clinic)

The Columbia researchers tested five different exercise snacks and found that the optimal amount of movement was five minutes of walking every 30 minutes. The researchers tested 1 or 5 minutes of walking every 30 or 60 minutes of sitting and found that ‘all amounts of walking significantly reduced blood pressure by 4 to 5 mmHg compared with sitting all day‘.

The optimal amount of movement, the researchers found, was five minutes of walking every 30 minutes. This was the only amount that significantly lowered both blood sugar and blood pressure. In addition, this walking regimen had a dramatic effect on how the participants responded to large meals, reducing blood sugar spikes by 58% compared with sitting all day.

– Columbia University

In the following YouTube video, Lawson explains how short exercise snacks can lead to better fitness.

Credit: Cleveland Clinic
  • The effects on mood and fatigue are important. People tend to repeat behaviors that make them feel good and that are enjoyable.
  • What we know now is that for optimal health, you need to move regularly at work, in addition to a daily exercise routine. While that may sound impractical, our findings show that even small amounts of walking spread through the work day can significantly lower your risk of heart disease and other chronic illnesses.
– Dr Diaz, Columbia University

Lawton says “The biggest factor with exercise snacks is going to be consistency, making sure you’re doing it on a daily basis and moving on a daily basis, rather than doing a day here then maybe one day next week”.

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