Learn what these sneaky fitness boosters are — and why they matter to your overall health.
There’s no denying the value of a 30-plus minute workout — after all, current health guidelines call for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week. But a growing body of evidence suggests that taking an all-or-nothing approach to fitness isn’t realistic. Some days, five or 10 minutes is all you’ve got.
Luckily, it may be all you need.
Enter movement snacks. Just like the name implies, movement snacks are short bursts of physical activity that can fill up your fitness tank and help you hit that 150-minute target.
Also called high-intensity physical activity, or HIIPA, three or four movement snacks a day has been shown to provide a surprising improvement in cardiorespiratory fitness, according to a 2018 study that involved brief bouts of stair climbing. Participants went up a flight of 60 steps briskly and then had between one to four hours of recovery time.
When they did this three times daily for six weeks, they improved the way their bodies used oxygen and boosted heart health measures. Keep in mind that they saw these benefits from only about one minute of extra activity daily.
In another study, people who did a movement snack before each main meal had better blood sugar control compared to those who did one session of continuous, moderate-intensity exercise for a longer period of time. Even just a few seconds of intense activity done regularly made a difference in the muscle mass and cardiovascular function of older adults in a 2021 study reported in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.
What’s in a Movement Snack?
All this evidence is compelling, but what exactly constitutes a movement snack? Here’s the good news: “It can be anything that feels like a short burst of activity that breaks up a block of sitting time,” says SilverSneakers fitness expert Larysa DiDio.
According to DiDio, you don’t need to do “traditional” exercises like squats, lunges, and pushups for your movement snacks — unless that’s what you want. Instead, you can stretch your options. Some ideas:
- Go up the stairs more quickly than usual
- Run in place for 10 seconds
- Lift a gallon of milk over your head for five seconds, then switch sides
- Dance to your favorite song
- Vigorously scrub your kitchen counters
- Do a yoga sun salutation sequence
- Take a SilverSneakers LIVE Enerchi Express class
- Run alongside your dog for a few minutes
- Stand up and sit down five times whenever you get up from sitting
Remember, just a few minutes — or even a few seconds — can make a difference if you weave these options into your day. As you keep integrating them, it’s likely you’ll find more ways to move so you spend less time sitting and more time being active.
How to Get Started
Since snacks involve such short bursts of movement, you don’t need to load up your to-do list and make them into a chore that way. Instead, DiDio says, think of them as enjoyable, active breaks that you can sneak into whatever you’re already doing.
“By seeing these movement snacks as fun, you’re more likely to keep putting more of them into your day,” she says. “Plus, that way it feels like you’re playing. Get creative with it and begin seeing opportunities everywhere. The more you move, the more fun it becomes to think of new ways to switch it up.”
Try this today: See if you can get at least five movement snacks into your day today. That might be doing a few yoga poses during a commercial, balancing on the balls of your feet as you’re brushing your teeth, or going for a brisk walk after dinner. Whatever gets you moving and is longer than a few minutes can be perfect as a snack.
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