What is movement snacking?
Movement snacking is when you do several short periods of activity, spread throughout the day. This can be easier to manage than a longer exercise session. An example of movement snacking could be taking 10 squats while you wait for your kettle to boil. Whilst it’s always important to make time for regular workouts and longer exercise sessions, you can still improve your wellbeing with these shorter activities.
What are the benefits of movement snacking?
It’s easy to think that if you don’t do long sessions of exercise then you won’t get any benefits. But there is good evidence to show that short, frequent movement can be good for your health.
The UK Government has recently changed their guidelines to state that all movement counts towards your weekly targets. This is true even if the movement lasts less than ten minutes. Here are some of the benefits of movement snacking.
Less time sitting down
Sitting down lots is not good for your health. It can increase your chance of gaining weight and developing diabetes. It can also make you more prone to having high blood pressure and posture issues. Even if you’re doing longer workouts, getting up to move during the day is still recommended. So, movement snacking can help you to break up longer periods of sitting, reducing your health risks.
Fights inactivity when working from home
If you work from home, you might find you move a lot less than when you went out to work. Not only do you not have to commute, but it’s also likely you don’t need to walk very far to reach the toilet or make a cup of tea. Movement snacking provides a fantastic opportunity to get that level of activity back into your life.
Helps to build good habits
Incorporating regular movement into your day can help you to form better habits. After a while you will likely start to do these things without thinking about it. For example, if you link brushing your teeth with doing some squats or balancing exercises, this can help you to form a new, healthier routine. These little changes are easier to work into your daily life than longer gym workouts.
Increases your balance and mobility
While cardiovascular exercise and strength training are important, it’s also good to improve your balance and flexibility too. Studies have shown that having good balance as you age is key for your health – it can reduce your risk of falls and is associated with living longer. Incorporating a few yoga poses into your day can improve your balance, even if you don’t have time to attend a full class very often.
Supports your energy levels and mood
Many jobs are quite sedentary and involve lots of time sitting down at a computer. This can leave you feeling tired and may affect your mood. Movement snacking can give you a quick burst of both energy and endorphins. You could try jogging on the spot, doing some jumping jacks, or even dancing for five minutes. This can help you to feel better and can increase your productivity.
How to start movement snacking
Look for opportunities to sneak movement into your day. You could start with 5 minutes of yoga stretches straight after getting up. Or perhaps you could do 20 squats while making a coffee. Later in the day you could:
- take a dance break mid-morning
- take a short ten-minute jog at lunch
- do some push-ups in the afternoon
- try standing on one leg when you brush your teeth (with eyes closed if possible)
Try to mix it up – so include a range of cardio exercises, strength activities and balance or mobility movements. At first it can be hard to remember to add these new movements into your day, especially if you’re used to sitting down a lot. There are several things you could try:
- find a trigger to link the new behaviour to – for example, cleaning your teeth or waiting for the kettle
- set a reminder on your phone for a movement break
- leave a yoga mat or some dumbbells in a visible place
- try taking a couple of squats every time you sit or stand up