A Comprehensive Guide to Exercise Snacks - the 3 min Habit that Boosts Energy and Improves Overall Health

A Comprehensive Guide to Exercise Snacks - the 3 min Habit that Boosts Energy and Improves Overall Health

April 11, 2024

10 minutes

Are you exhausted by your busy schedule and struggling to find time for a proper workout routine? Make way for Exercise Snacks - reputed to be the game-changer to achieving a healthier lifestyle in your hectic life. But what exactly are Exercise Snacks, and can they actually improve your fitness and health?

Let's deep-dive into everything you need to know about Exercise Snacks - the science, the benefits, the guided how-tos, and most importantly, how you can practically add them to your busy schedule.

What are Exercise Snacks? 

Simply put, an 'Exercise Snack' is a short, one-to-ten-minute burst of moderate-to-high-intensity exercise that can be implemented throughout your day. Unlike a traditional workout that requires a longer time commitment and usually a dedicated space and outfit for the workout, Exercise Snacks are meant to be quick and accessible.

Rather than being chained to the idea of a one-hour workout, you can make fitness a continuous part of your lifestyle. 

Imagine taking a flight of stairs two steps at a time, parking your car a bit further from your destination to walk more, or doing a short series of body-weight exercises - these all fall under the umbrella of Exercise Snacks. The idea is to distribute your physical activity across your daily schedule, making it flexible and manageable for busy people like you. 

Exercise Snacks are the perfect fit for those seeking to make their day more active but are bound by time. The benefits are clear - from increased energy, improved mood, to better cardiac health.

According to Dr. Andy Galpin, in a recent Andrew Huberman podcast, there are 2 types of Exercise Snacks:

  1. Cardiovascular Fitness Snacks - These are designed to improve or maintain your ability to perform endurance activities, examples include doing 100 jumping jacks, running up a stairwell as fast as you can (safely) for 20 to 30 seconds, or sprinting to your car in the parking lot.
  2. Muscular Endurance Snacks - These aim to enhance the ability of your muscles to maintain a fixed position for some period of time, usually between one and three minutes. An example would be a 30 to 60-second wall sit.

Dr. Galpin explained, that these exercise snacks can help improve various aspects of your physiology, promoting both recovery and performance in your other types of exercise and athletic endeavors.

For modern-day workers, whose busy but sedentary lifestyle leads to a range of health issues, including obesity, heart and cardiovascular disease, and diabetes, taking Exercise Snacks throughout the day could be one of the easiest and most effective solutions to maintain and improve your fitness and overall health.

Does the concept of Exercise Snacks really work?

So, you're intrigued by the idea of Exercise Snacks by now, right? However, you may be wondering about their real-life effectiveness - do they really work in real life? Is there any scientific evidence backing up their benefits?

Indeed! There has been emerging evidence from studies and health research conducted around the efficiency of Exercise Snacks.

1. Exercise Snacks can solve your sitting problem

It's easy to fall into a sedentary routine, especially if you work long hours at a desk. Many studies have emphasized on the importance of reducing prolonged sedentary time - a well-known 2008 study reveals that those who spend long hours sitting exhibit significantly increased incidences of blood sugar and cholesterol issues, compared to those who frequently stand and move, irrespective of their exercise regimen. 

More recently, investigations have suggested that the negative impacts on metabolic health resulting from prolonged sedentary behavior can be so extreme as to negate the health advantages of daily exercise.

The good news is - recent studies have shown that Exercise Snacks can combat the numerous health risks associated with extended periods of prolonged sitting.

2. Exercise Snacks improves your cardio-metabolic health

In one notable study published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, researchers at McMaster University discovered that a short period of stair climbing dispensed as exercise snacks throughout the day, improve cardiorespiratory fitness (an essential marker of cardiovascular health). This particular approach was also found to improve cardio-metabolic health just as efficiently as traditional long-duration exercise strategies. 

A recent study published in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism found that stair-climbing Exercise Snacks, for example, reduce blood sugar spikes and improve heart and lung function. 

Additionally, a 2014 study in the journal 'Diabetologia' found that short bouts of exercise, or 'Exercise Snacks', throughout the day were more effective at improving blood sugar control than a single, prolonged workout. This suggests that incorporating 'Exercise Snacks' into your daily routine could be an effective strategy for managing blood sugar levels.

3. Exercise Snacks is good for your brain

Besides the health benefits, studies indicate that exercise snacks can potentially improve your cognitive function, concentration, and even memory.

A key finding from the National Library of Medicine study was that short bouts of exercise have a positive effect on cognitive functioning, particularly on prefrontal cortex-dependent tasks, which include executive functions such as attention, working memory, and problem-solving.

Read more about taking breaks at work and how it improves your productivity.

How can I incorporate Exercise Snacks into my busy daily routine?

Working exercise snacks into your day might seem challenging with your packed schedule, but it's simpler than you think. There are plenty of opportunities throughout the day to engage in some physical activity. Here’s how you can optimize each opportunity, even in the middle of a busy day. 

When faced with a busy calendar, it's important to get creative with your exercise routine. Try to incorporate the novel physical activity strategy - Exercise Snacks into your daily routine. You might consider:

1. Do the little things

  • Consider walking or cycling to work instead of driving or taking public transport. If that's not an option, get off a stop or two early and enjoy a brisk walk.
  • Vigorously climb a few flights of stairs in the morning, at lunch, and in the evening
  • Take a walk after lunch.
  • Make use of waiting times - whether it's for the kettle to boil, the computer to load, or even during a routine phone call, you can always fit in 10 squats while waiting.
  • Do jumping jacks, squats, or burpees during commercial breaks while watching TV.
  • If you sit at a desk for work, get out of your chair every 20-30 minutes to do an Exercise Snack. Set an alarm to keep you moving throughout the day.

Read more on how to maintain an active lifestyle while working at home.

2. Plan it out

Sure, Exercise Snacks can be spontaneous, but to really reap the benefits, you need to start to build a habit around it.

It is highly recommended by psychologists and behavior change scientists to plan out your workouts ahead of time to increase the likelihood of completing your fitness goals. Sounds intimidating? Not if you are planning out Exercise Snacks. The plan can be as simple as - I am doing 10 jumping jacks in each commercial break while watching TV tonight.

3. Use tools to break up sedentary periods and move 

As easy as it might seem, planning out any physical activity isn't easy amongst everything else going on in your life. The good news is - you can always leverage technology to ensure you're getting your exercise snacks.

Everything's easier with technology, isn't it?

There are a handful of apps in the market that can nudge you periodically throughout your workday to get up from your chair and move. From the simple stand-up reminder on your smartwatch to well-designed apps that are dedicated to breaking up sedentary time and sitting time and feeding you what to do for Exercise Snacks.

One of the most effective apps for Exercise Snacking is StretchMinder - a personalized activity break reminder app designed for busy individuals. StretchMinder offers a vast array of features making it the perfect tool to assist you in incorporating exercise snacks into your schedule. 

StretchMinder not only sends you reminders to move based on your schedule and preference but also provides quick and easy activity snacks that you can essentially do anywhere. You just need to set your schedule once, and the app will remind you and feed you exactly what to do for your exercise breaks.

7 Simple Exercise Snacking Ideas to Add to Your Day

Exercise Snacks don't require any special equipment or preconditions. Heck, you don't have to even get on the floor! Given below are 7 simple, yet effective exercises that can be included in your Exercise Snacks regimen. If time permits, you can bundle them all in one session. Or if you're pressed for time, choose one of them as your quick Exercise Snack. These exercises can also be simplified or intensified to suit your fitness level. Let's go!

1. Pulsing Squats

Pulsing Squats are a powerful exercise to engage your lower body and core muscles.

Start by standing with feet hip-width apart. Bend your knees and lower your hips as if sitting back into a chair, keeping your chest upright and back straight. Lower down until your thighs are parallel with the floor, ensuring your knees don’t go beyond your toes. Instead of rising back up to the starting position, remain in the squat and pulse gently up and down by a few inches.

Regression: Chair Squats - If pulsing squats are too intense or you're working on building up your squat strength, you can use a chair to guide the range of motion and ensure proper form.

Progression: Squat Jumps - To increase the intensity of Pulsing Squats, add a jump after lowering into the squat, driving upwards with power, and landing softly to absorb the impact before transitioning into the next squat.

2. Wall Sit

This exercise is an effective way to build isometric strength and endurance in leg muscles, the lower body and core.

Stand with your back against a wall and walk your feet out while sliding your back down the wall until your hips and knees create a 90-degree angle. Your thighs should be parallel to the ground, and your knees should be directly above your ankles. Hold this position for a set duration, typically ranging from 20 seconds to a minute or more for advanced aerobic fitness levels.

Progression: Single Legged Wall Sit - To advance the difficulty of the Wall Sit, extend one leg out in front of you, holding it parallel to the ground.

3. Jumping Jacks

This plyometric move serves as a cardiovascular workout that helps increase heart rate, improve stamina, and burn calories. It also engages multiple muscle groups, including the calves, glutes, deltoids, and core, promoting coordination and flexibility.

Repeat for your desired number of repetitions or time interval, maintaining a consistent rhythm throughout the set.

Regression: Step Jack – If you have knee pain or simply need to regress the Basic Jumping Jack, you can turn it into a stepping instead of a jumping exercise.

4. Knee Lifts

This is a dynamic, low-impact aerobic exercise targeting your core, hips, and thighs while improving balance and coordination.

Stand with your feet hip-width apart and arms by your sides. Shift your weight to one leg and lift the opposite knee to hip height, bringing it across your body towards the opposite elbow, engaging the oblique muscles.

Progression: Jogging in Place - Elevate the intensity by transitioning from knee lifts to a light jog, lifting your feet slightly off the ground and maintaining a steady and rhythmic pace while continuing the knee-lifting motion. This progression boosts cardiovascular benefits and engages your lower body muscles more dynamically.

5. Steam Engine

The Steam Engine is a dynamic exercise that combines the movement of a high knee with a cross-body reach.

Stand tall, placing your hands behind your head with elbows wide. Lift your knee to meet the opposite elbow, rotating your torso and engaging your core as you do. Alternate sides, and keep a steady pace for a full body warm-up and core activation.

6. Wall Push-Ups 

Perfect for those with busy office schedules. This modified push-up variation is ideal for those building upper body strength or as a low-impact alternative to traditional push-ups.

Stand facing a wall, approximately an arm's length away. Place your hands against the wall at shoulder height and width. Keeping your body in a straight line, bend your elbows to bring your chest toward the wall, maintaining a tight core. Push back to the starting position, focusing on using your chest and arm muscles to do the work.

Regression: Stand closer to the wall - This reduces the angle and body weight resistance you need to overcome, making the exercise easier on your arms and upper body while still engaging the same muscles.

Progression: Desk/Chair Push-ups - Lower down to a desk or chair, which allows for a greater range of motion and increased difficulty compared to the wall, intensifying the workout for your chest, arms, and core. Make sure the desk or chair is secure and won't move during the exercise.

7. Shadowboxing

One of our team's favorite Exercise Snacks on a stressful day. Shadowboxing is a vigorous and empowering cardio workout that also helps work out your arms and get your heart rate up.

Begin in a fighting stance with your feet shoulder-width apart, one foot slightly in front of the other, and knees slightly bent. Keep your fists up near your chin, your elbows in, and your wrists straight. Throw punches into the air, alternating between jabs, crosses, hooks, and uppercuts. Incorporate defensive moves like slips and ducks to simulate dodging opponents' strikes if you are comfortable. Maintain a quick pace to elevate your heart rate, focusing on form, speed, and movement fluidity.

Progression: Add any foot works you desire (squats, lunges, step ups, etc) - This not only enhances the cardiovascular intensity but also boosts lower body strength and agility, making the workout more holistic and challenging.


Whether you are squeezed for time, lack the motivation to commit to longer bouts of exercise, or simply wish to become more active throughout your day, Exercise Snacks are a realistic and science-backed approach to boosting energy and improving your overall health.

As with any good habit, consistency is key - so start small, keep it regular, and you'll find yourself looking forward to these short, invigorating breaks in your day. Let's make 2024 the year of the exercise snack!

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Are there any potential risks associated with Exercise Snacks?

If you have any underlying health conditions, it's important to consult with a healthcare provider before incorporating exercise snacks into your routine.

2. How many Exercise Snacks a day?

Experts suggest incorporating Exercise Snacks every hour, especially during long bouts of sedentary activity. This could mean setting a gentle reminder to stand, stretch, or engage in mild physical activity every 60 minutes. 

3. How long should each Exercise Snack be?

Exercise Snacking is a time-efficient approach, usually lasting from as little as under a minute up to 10 minutes. However, the duration of each Exercise Snack can vary depending on the type of exercise you're doing, your fitness level, and the time you have available.

4. Are Exercise Snacks suitable for all fitness levels?

Yes, whether you're a fitness newbie or a seasoned gym-goer, you can tailor these bite-sized exercises to match your ability. If you're just starting out, you could begin with exercises like walking in place or doing a few stretches. As your fitness improves, you might upgrade to more vigorous exercise snacks like push-ups or jumping jacks. The key is to listen to your body and pick exercises that challenge but don't overstrain you.

5. Can Exercise Snacks help me lose weight?

Yes, Exercise Snacks can certainly aid in weight loss. It might seem counter-intuitive considering the short duration of these activities, but it's essential to understand the physiological processes at play. Every time you engage in physical activity, no matter how small, your body burns calories. Over time, this accumulated caloric burn can lead to losses in body weight.

6. Can Exercise Snacks be done at home?

Absolutely! The beauty of Exercise Snacks lies in their flexibility and convenience. No matter where you are — yes, including your home — you can perform these exercises. Whether it's between work calls, email checks, or television commercials, there are myriad opportunities to integrate these bite-sized bouts of physical activity into your routine.

7. Do Exercise Snacks require any special equipment?

No. Your own body weight is more than enough to get you started with effective exercise snacks, whether you're doing squats in your living room, lunges in your office, or push-ups in your kitchen. These concise bursts of exercise are designed to slot into your day, wherever you are, making use of your body and the space around you. 

8. Can Exercise Snacks help with stress?

Absolutely! When you exercise, even for only a few minutes, your body produces chemicals called endorphins. These 'feel good' neurotransmitters act as natural painkillers and mood elevators, therefore, helping to decrease stress levels.

9. Does Exercise Snacking contribute to better sleep quality?

Yes, regular physical activity, even in brief, snack-sized periods, contributes to a healthier sleep-wake cycle. According to a study conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, people who exercise regularly experience better sleep than those who don't.

However, engaging in intense physical activity too close to bedtime affects your sleep due to the increase in adrenaline and body temperature. Therefore, it is suggested to plan your Exercise Snacks at least 1 to 2 hours before bedtime. 

10. How can I track my progress with Exercise Snacks?

Keeping tabs on your progress with Exercise Snacks is crucial for motivation and to measure improvement. While you can certainly document your activities manually in a journal or notebook, technology can simplify things substantially.

The StretchMinder app lets you track your progress over time. Each Exercise Snack you take is automatically logged, making it easy to monitor whether you’re reaching your daily movement goals and challenge yourself to improve over time.

Additionally, the app offers a variety of Exercise Snack options. As you get accustomed to this new routine and start improving, you can challenge yourself with new and more intense exercises to maintain progression and keep your routine fresh.

Be kind to your body

  • Short breaks of mindfulness and movement exercises delivered to you at the right time
  • Keep your focus while staying mobile throughout the day
  • Access a library of professionally designed video & audio guided, low-impact movement exercises for all fitness levels
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