Exercise “Snacks”!

Do you have 30-90 seconds to improve your fitness routine? It might be time for an exercise “snack”. 

Most of us look for ways to improve our existing fitness routine, but often we are faced with a situation that we know all too well- we don’t have the time to add additional workouts to our existing routines. Even when we have the “perfect” routine nailed down, days where we work late, travel, or are just too tired to commit to a full gym session can get in the way of progress, or even potentially set us back. Increasing your VO2 max and performance can be difficult as well, even if you hit the gym or do cardio regularly. That’s where exercise “snacks” come in! (And as a bonus, they can even enhance recovery time!)

In the simplest of terms, an exercise “snack” is a short burst of activity (as little as 20 seconds) that increases your heart rate and gets you moving. These “snacks” should not take time out of your day, but are instead meant to be incorporated into your daily routine. They can be done while watching TV, while you are on the phone (ever been on hold a long time? At least you can move while listening to that elevator music), or by altering activities that you already do, such as running as fast as you can across the parking lot to your car, or taking the stairs as quickly as possible. They are not meant to interrupt your day, but instead make better use of the time you already have. They do not require a warm-up and can be completely sporadic. Of course though, don’t do anything that can cause you pain or injury.

There are two fundamental types of “snacks”, each with their own benefits. The first category improves cardiovascular fitness (cardio performed for 12 minutes or longer). Long duration endurance can be improved by “snacks” that really get your heart rate up. Examples include standing up from your desk and doing 100 jumping jacks, going up the stairs as quickly as possible, running to your car, and other exercises or movements that really get your body moving. The goal here is to get your heart rate up and not get injured (so don’t do anything you aren’t comfortable with). These should take about 30-90 seconds. That’s it. Just 30-90 seconds of intense exercise, and you’ve completed your daily “snack”! Plus, it’s fun and can give you a short burst of energy! When done consistently, they can raise your VO2 max, enhance and improve the duration of your cardio sessions!

The second type of “snack” improves muscular endurance, such as your ability to hold a position like a plank for 1-3 minutes or doing as many sit ups as you can in a row- it is the ability to continue contracting a muscle, or group of muscles, against resistance, whether your own body weight or weights at the gym. Muscular endurance is important because it translates to other forms of exercise. Not only does it build muscle, it also facilitates buildup of microvascular supply to your muscles and connective tissue in a way that allows delivery of nutrients and oxygen faster, and removes waste products of neuromuscular efforts more quickly. Basically, muscular endurance is what makes your body more efficient at delivering what your muscles need during physical activity, and dumping what they shouldn’t. “Snacks” like this include things like 30 second wall sits, maintaining air squats for short periods of time, and wall sits, or doing as many sit ups as you can. Again, this should be done for 30-90 seconds, and is fun and easy!

You might be wondering how often you should add these fun little exercise “snacks” to your daily routine. We want to stress that this should be fun, easy, and shouldn’t take time out of your schedule. It is recommended that you do one of these at least once a week, but 3-5 times a week is better! So whether you are trying to improve your VO2 max, cardio duration, muscular endurance, overall performance, feel like you just haven’t been keeping up with your routine and don’t want to lose progress, or just feel the need to move a little more, exercise “snacks” are a great addition to your fitness routine and are quick, easy, and fun to do!

Join us on our Facebook page “Your Daily Exercise Snack” (you can find it through our Fit St. Charles Facebook page), where we will go live every morning during the work week with short, fun videos of our “snack” of the day! 

*Thank you to the Huberman Lab Podcast and Dr. Andy Galpin for introducing the Fit St. Charles crew to this fun, easy way to improve our fitness routines!