'Exercise snacking' is the new workout trend that can boost your mental health

Woman lifts arm weights in a straight position. exercise snacking.  She is looking away and smiling while working out from the comfort of her living room.
'Exercise snacking' is a new fitness trend perfect for time poor people. (Getty Images)

Working out can be hard to fit into your daily schedule, especially if you work long hours or have kids to work around. Which is why ‘exercise snacking’ could be the answer.

According to a recent survey from YouGov, the top New Year’s resolution for Brits in 2024 was to do more exercise or improve fitness levels, with 56% of respondents saying this was their top goal for the year ahead.

A separate survey found that lack of time is the most common reason why people stop exercising, which could be why the concept of ‘exercise snacking’ is becoming more popular.

What is ‘exercise snacking’?

Simply put, ‘exercise snacking’ is a phrase used for bite-sized workouts that can be performed throughout the day.

So, instead of doing exercise in one big chunk, you can ‘snack’ on it throughout the day and fit it into your schedule.

"These bursts of exercises can be as brief as a few minutes, and they add up over the day," Dean Zweck, Product Development Manager at Total Fitness, explains.

"The idea of exercise snacking is to keep your body moving consistently, even if it's just for a few minutes at a time."

Mature man squatting at home
Take a few minutes away from your desk to do a few squats. (Getty Images)

Benefits of ‘exercise snacking’

Zweck says there are five key benefits to ‘exercise snacking’. These include:

  • Boost mental health by elevating mood and providing an energy boost.

  • Breaking up long periods of sitting which can help overall health.

  • Improves posture and aids weight management.

  • It can improve productivity and fitness.

  • Boosts metabolism, resulting in additional calorie burning.

How long and often to ‘exercise snack’

"The fantastic thing about exercise snacking is that it's flexible," Zweck says. "You can start with just a few minutes a few times a day and gradually increase the duration and frequency as you get more comfortable.

"The key is consistency – aim for several 'snacks' a day, as long as you can fit them into your schedule."

Zweck adds that it’s important to remember NEAT, or Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. This is a concept that burns calories through activities besides planned exercise such as walking up the stairs or tidying the house.

"In fact, it plays a more significant role in calorie burn than exercise itself,” he adds. “With 5% [of calories burned] coming from exercise and a substantial 15% from NEAT."

Some examples of ‘exercise snacking’ include doing a few jumping jacks which you wait for your lunch or breakfast to heat up, or standing up for a few minutes from your desk to do some squats or lunges.

Woman in white sneakers and khaki trousers goes upstairs to her apartment. White staircase in apartment building. Casual outfit, urban fashion.
Walking up stairs can help to keep your metabolism moving and burn calories. (Getty Images)

"It's an ideal approach for people looking to increase their daily activity levels," Zweck adds. "Exercise snacking can contribute to improved fitness and weight loss by keeping you active throughout the day. These mini-workouts engage various muscle groups, leading to improved muscle tone and increased calorie burn. It can also help control cravings and boost energy levels."

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