A 7-minute Exercise Snack You Can Do At Home, Part 1
Do this exercise snack for just 7 minutes to get yourself on the road to better health and vitality, says science. Try it — you have nothing to lose, ‘cept maybe some chronic disease.
An exercise snack has the potential to make your life a whole lot better, especially if you sit around a lot and are not doing a consistent exercise program.
And let’s face it — most people do not exercise consistently, especially as they get older when it’s most needed. So what to do? Do small bits of exercise throughout the day. The science on this says, remarkably, that short bursts of exercise done a few times daily can substantially add to your health.
I will be showing you a few more examples of exercise snacks in this series over the next couple of weeks. If you’re not already a subscriber, become one so you don’t miss out on this topic and many others that aim to help you live long and strong.
Update: Here's Part 2
Kudos to Tara Parker-Pope of the New York Times who inspired this series with this article.
An exercise snack is a short, easy form of exercise that gives you similar benefits as longer, more sustained workouts. Typically, they consist of a short burst of movement that you can do at home, the office (if you have like-minded co-workers) or outdoors.
Surprisingly, several of scientific studies show that exercise snacking several times a day leads to meaningful gains in fitness and overall health, and is a needed antidote to sitting all day. We need to do something to counteract the harmful effects of sitting that scientists claim, without hyperbole, is the new form of smoking. (Read Sitting is the new smoking.)
Exercise snacks can last for seconds or up to several minutes, and provided a much needed break from sitting. A recent study concluded that even just 4-second bursts of exercise have been shown to improve fitness. You don’t even have to change your clothes.
In my case, I set my cell phone to chime every hour during working hours where I’m basically chained to my desk. Like a Pavlovian dog (although I don’t typically drool), when I hear the chime, I push myself away from the desk and have an exercise snack, one that’s been planned so I don’t have to waste time figuring out what I feel like doing and for how long.
Just as the science recommends, I encourage you to put some exercise snacking into your day, even if you workout you regularly, as I do. To help you along, I’m going to write a few posts in this “exercise snacks” series, each with a particular set of quick exercises from which you can choose to do, beginning with the one covered here: The 7-Minute Standing Exercise Snack.
My aim is to give you some options to get your heart racing and blood pumping from time to time throughout the day, because we humans no longer move much — not most of us living in industrialized nations anyway. The problem with that is that people who don’t move much get old fast. Those that do move a lot live longer and healthier. We know this not only through the many research studies done on this topic, but, famously, by observing the Blue Zone populations that don’t specifically “exercise”, but simply move every 20 minutes or so as part of their natural lifestyle.
Here’s a sample of typical, regular movement common among people who live in the Blue Zones, identified as a few places in the world where the longest lived, healthiest people reside:
Want 10 Extra Years? It’s Easier Than You Think In The Blue Zones!
Author Dan Buettner writes about areas he calls “blue zones”, like Sardinia, Okinawa, Costa Rica (the Nicoya Peninsula), Ikaria (a Greek island), and Loma Linda, California. What these blue zone residents have in common include exercising regularly, eating more vegetables/less meat, engaging in social networking, and having a sense of purpose.
Several studies show that these small bursts of exercise snacks can have a large impact on health. One such study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise showed that overweight participants that added a 20-second burst of stair climbing to an otherwise sedentary day led to improvements in insulin sensitivity, a sign of metabolic health.
Now, this is not to say that a few 20-second exercise snacks replaces regular exercise consisting of a half-hour or more of effort, but what they do achieve meaningful results that far exceed sitting without pause.
A study done at McMaster University showed exercise snacks can lead to meaningful improvements in fitness. In that study, a dozen exercisers took 20 seconds to race up three flights of stairs three times a day for three days a week. After six weeks of these 20-second snacks of exercise, the exercisers increased their aerobic fitness by about 5%, and demonstrated improvements in leg power.
The Standing 7-Minute Exercise Snack
Take a 7-minute break during your day to try exercise physiologist Chris Jordan’s standing workout video below. All you need is a wall, a chair for balance, sturdy shoes, and a bit of motivation to push away from the desk, or launch yourself from the couch.
Chris Jordan is the Director of Exercise Physiology at the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute. He designed this 7-minute exercise snack to be accessible to newcomers, older or pregnant people, and those who cannot easily get on the floor or back up.
I’d like to know what you think of the 7-minute exercise snack — just scroll down and leave a comment.
Integrate Exercise Snacks Throughout Your Day
If the 7-Minute Standing Exercise Snack is not your thing, I will soon post other exercise snacks for you to consider. In the meantime, move when on the phone and take a moving music break.
Move while on the phone
A work or social call is a great time to add some activity to your day. Of course, this won’t work while sprinting up stairs, but if you do an exercise snack that doesn’t make you breathless, the person you’re talking to won’t have a clue.
Just get up and start strutting around your home as you talk. If you have a couple of light dumb bells around, plug the earphones into the phone and do some arm exercises, or walk a few steps, then squat, walk a few steps, then squat. Something like that.
Add music to your movement break
Every hour or so, turn on a song that gets you jacked, and let it move you. Dance, do jumping jacks, squats, lunges or another physical activity.
Adding music to a walk or just taking a short dance break, etc. will enhance the restorative benefits of exercise, said Dr. Kelly McGonigal, a health psychologist and lecturer at Stanford University and author of The Joy of Movement. She says:
Moving to music is one of the best ways to increase positive emotions and to connect with other people. Think about something like a movement break to music if you need more energy, or if you need a big emotional reset.
Your Exercise Snack Takeaway
Remember these four things:
- Don’t move = old and encumbered. Move a lot = youthful and healthy.
- Just one 20-second burst of stair climbing to an otherwise sedentary day can improve insulin sensitivity.
- Even walking around while talking on the phone contributes to your health.
Last Updated on September 29, 2022 by Joe Garma