No time to exercise? Then grab a snack.

No time to exercise? Then grab a snack.

We all know exercise is very healthy, but make time for it. It doesn’t always work. To get enough exercise, researchers now recommend sports snacks. These aren’t muesli bars or protein shakes, but very short sessions of intense exercise. Think a quick run up the stairs or a run to the bus stop.

Arie Boomsma has been saying it for years: Wherever you are and however much time you have, you can always get some exercise somewhere. And then he accompanies this kind of text with videos of himself pulling himself up a tree branch ten times or pushing a heavy pole he’s come across in the air somewhere. But he’s right.

Small sporting moments, big difference
According to the scientists, who presented their findings at an international obesity conference last week in Sao Paulo, this is the way to shorten sitting time and get closer to getting enough exercise. Especially for people who are overweight and obese, and who exercise in general, small moments of exercise can make a big difference.

“Current guidelines recommend 150 to 300 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise per week, but many people struggle to achieve these goals,” explains researcher Bruno Gualano of the University of São Paulo in Brazil. “To reduce the negative consequences of sitting for long periods of time, we propose sports snacks as a practical alternative. These are short, intense bursts of activity lasting one minute or less, which can be more efficient than traditional exercise sessions.”

Lots of examples
Even among healthy adults, only about two-thirds meet the physical activity recommendations, says Professor Gualano. Only about half of obese people do, and even fewer people with type 2 diabetes or other cardiovascular disease. These sports snacks are most beneficial for people who find it difficult to maintain regular exercise.

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There are plenty of examples of these exercise moments. “Think of stair climbing or cycling for short periods. Many studies have shown that this is very beneficial for cardiovascular health and endurance,” she says. “For example, one study showed that stair climbing every hour improved cardiovascular health in healthy men, while another study showed that short periods of intense exercise are very effective for people who are overweight or obese.”

Not practical for everyone
The researcher agrees that it is not easy for many people to incorporate these snacks into their daily lives. Not enough people, such as bus drivers, teachers or people with physical disabilities, can simply climb stairs.

However, everyone should try it. “The potential benefits of snacking during exercise are reduced sedentary time and improved metabolic health, and these benefits can be achieved even with very light, unstructured activities, which don’t even fall into the category of snacking during exercise,” explains Gualano. “But more research is needed to determine the long-term effects and how beneficial it is for people to exercise for short periods of time. The bottom line is that this exercise should be adapted to individual needs and abilities. It’s important to recognize that all exercise, even if it’s just a minute in between, is beneficial in reducing the time we spend sitting.”

At home or in the office
The great thing is that you can do these types of short workouts anywhere. “Whether you’re at home or in the office, you don’t need any special equipment or clothing,” he said. “Except when it’s not possible to temporarily stop sitting, such as with bus drivers, the biggest concern is people’s physical ability to exercise intensely for a short period of time,” the researcher concludes.

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