If you’ve been finding it harder to burn calories these days, you’re not alone. The complexities of modern life, compounded by the disruptions of Covid-19, often leave us with nothing but “time confetti“—a constellation of scattered little pieces of free time that can be impossible to reconcile with, say, a focused hour of power yoga or long-distance Peloton ride. Even if you have the time, motivation can be hard to muster, especially if you’ve lost access to the incentive hubs of gyms and in-person classes.
Fortunately, the solution is easier than you may think, and it fits right into the confetti of your free time—or even your un-free time. “Exercise snacks” may be short in duration, but bursts of activity done throughout the day add up to a more active, healthy lifestyle. Plus, they’ll help build up your willpower “muscle”—creating a pattern that can sustain and expand itself over time.
So what kind of exercise snacks should you indulge in? Here are some ideas.
If you spend your workday seated, the imperative of getting the heck up can’t be overstated. Peppering your day with timed “micro-workouts” not only makes this easy, but over the course of a day adds up to the equivalent of a full workout! Plus, research shows that exercise improves focus and creativity, so while it might be difficult to tear yourself away from work, you’ll likely end up with a more productive workday overall.
One easy way to start? Do 100 reps an hour of literally anything. There are dozens of different exercises to choose from that don’t even require equipment. Just do any combination that adds up to 100:
- 50 jumping jacks, 25 squats, 25 push-ups
- Alternating sets of 20 lunges and 20 sit-ups
- 100 mountain climbers—why not?
- You get the idea!
Now pat yourself on the back, set a timer for 60 minutes, and get back to work. When the timer goes off, do 100 reps of something else! It only takes a few minutes, and it never gets boring.
Don’t feel like thinking up your own routines? Apps like Obé Fitness, Fit On, and 7 Minute Workout offer on-demand workouts as short as—you guessed it—7 minutes for when you need the motivation of a class environment.
Walk and talk
Spend a lot of time on calls and Zoom meetings these days? Take that show on the road! Grab your headset, and take your calls on your feet, either outside for a stroll or just pacing around the house. Talk about multitasking—you’re exercising without even breaking from work! If colleagues live nearby, consider a walking meeting. Not only has the CDC recommended walking as an optimal exercise, but if you can get outdoors, you’ll enjoy a lift in mood and a healthy shot of vitamin D as well.
Ugh, chores, right? Many of us put it off whenever possible, but did you know activities like cleaning, laundry, and dishwashing actually burn significant calories? If you tend to reserve housework for evenings and weekends, try setting aside 20 minutes every day, all at once or in snacks, for a single household task. You’ll get double-duty out of your exercise snacks—and be glad you did when you get time back during your off-hours!
Bonus burn: Get more exercise out of your chores with these modifications:
- Incorporate lunges into your vacuuming
- Try some pliés or side leg lifts (straight-leg or bent-knee) while washing dishes
- Folding laundry? Alternate standing on one foot, or do some calf-raises
Get (or foster) a dog
Dogs aren’t just lumps of love covered in fur, but a great fitness companion, too. Owners of dogs, on average, walk 22 minutes more per day than non-dog owners. Dog walking offers a consistent routine and can lead to health benefits that include lower blood pressure and cholesterol and improved cardio health. Not sure about the commitment? Test the waters by fostering a dog—but move fast, as dog fostering has become wildly popular during the pandemic. If you’re a cat person, you can certainly try walking your cat…but don’t expect to break a sweat during your feline stroll.
Just go fast—for four minutes, or four seconds
A 10-year Norwegian study found that short bursts of high-intensity exercise—no more than four minutes in length—were associated with better health outcomes and longevity. If even four minutes of heart-pounding activity sounds like an eternity, a study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that just four seconds of high-intensity exercise boosted muscular and circulatory health and may have lifted mood, too.
What are some snack-length high-intensity workouts you can try? Well, you can do just about any type of cardio exercise for a few minutes!
- Sprinting on a stationary bike
- Taking the stairs (but fast!)
- Sprinting around the block
- Jumping rope or doing jumping jacks
- Burpees (AKA “military drills”)
Inspiration is everywhere if you’re looking for more creative high-intensity workout ideas.
Most importantly, though, opportunities to add activity to your daily routines are everywhere, too.
We all have our own dietary needs and preferences, so you should create an exercise “snacking menu” that works for you! Whether it’s classically exercise-based or a less conventional form of calorie-burning, the most important thing is to do something—so find something you enjoy and nosh on it all day!