How to get healthier with small bursts of activity every day
Almost everyone who trains wants to lose a bit of weight at some point. Even if fat loss isn’t your main fitness focus, it can often be part of a strength or sports performance goal.
And as we know, fat loss comes down to energy balance – calories in vs calories out – plus the nuances of human behaviour, appetite, and food choices.
But what exactly is the best way to be active to boost NEAT and get all the health benefits of regular movement? Recent research into the concept of “movement snacks” suggests that small bursts of activity throughout the day can be just as effective as dedicated training sessions.
What are “movement snacks”?
Movement snacks are any short bursts of activity that you can fit into your day. They don’t have to be exercise based (although 2 minutes of air squats next to your desk would certainly qualify). Movement snacks can be any kind of movement from walking around the block to cleaning the shower.
The word “movement” drives home the point that it’s all about getting extra activity into your day (rather than extra exercise, workouts, training, or cardio) and reducing the amount of time sat down.
What does research say about movement snacks?
The way we live these days – mostly sitting down, with a few workouts a week - is pretty unnatural for our bodies. Humans evolved to move at low to moderate intensity throughout the day. So, even those of us who do cardio sessions, HIIT, strength training or metcons are often missing out on this element of daily movement.
Daily sitting time is linked with all-cause mortality (some studies say that sitting for 6+ hours a day increases all-cause mortality 48% for men and 94% for woman when compared to people who sit less than 3 hours a day).
Adding in 2-3 minute movement snacks at regular intervals during sedentary times of the day massively reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease and other health issues and brings a host of instant benefits too.
How many calories can you burn doing movement snacks?
NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) can account for 30% of your total calories burned. That’s much more than you’d burn through workouts. By adding movement snacks into your day you will increase your NEAT and burn more calories without needing to do extra exercise sessions.
7 benefits of movement snacks
Burn more NEAT calories – get up and move for 2-3 minutes 2-3 times every sedentary hour and you could burn 100s of extra calories a day
Lose weight – movement snacks increase calories burned through NEAT which will help you lose weight or manage your weight
Support the lymphatic system – the lymphatic system doesn’t have its own pump and relies on your body moving for it to work
Ease stiffness from sitting – sitting for long periods isn’t good for your posture, back, neck and shoulders. Movement snacks will help
Boost brain health – moving regularly is great for your mental health, brain function, creativity, mood and energy levels
Support heart health – any extra movement has positive outcomes for heart health and reducing risk of diseases.
Control blood pressure – any reduction in sedentary behaviour is great for your blood pressure and cholesterol
Are movement snacks better than cardio workouts?
Movement snacks are different to dedicated exercise sessions, and both have their pros and cons. The main plus side of movement snacks is that they’re short, easy to add in to your day, and can be done anywhere. Cardio workouts need a change of clothes and probably a shower afterwards!
If you’re training for a specific sports event, of course you’ll need to do the relevant cardio sessions as part of your training. But movement snacks are different to exercise. They’re part of living a healthy, active lifestyle.
In an ideal world, we’d stay active during the day with walking and regular movement snacks, and then do our training of choice for enjoyment, sports performance, and specific physical goals.
12 ways to add movement snacks to your day
OK, we’ve convinced you to get up and move more when you’d usually be sitting down. What are the best ways to add movement snacks? Try these for starters.
Walk around when you take or make phone calls
Park further away from the doors at work or when shopping
Take the dog round the block
Do local chores on foot
Do 1 minute each of air squats, push ups, sit ups
Walk up and down the stairs for 2-3 minutes
Dance to a song on the radio
Walk for 10 minutes of your lunch break
Get up and move when the adverts come on the TV
Spend 5 minutes tidying or cleaning
Rack up 500 steps on your tracker
Do 3 minutes of simple stretches
We’re on a mission to support you in your healthiest lifestyle. Check out the Gravity Fitness store for affordable, top quality functional fitness equipment ideal for staying active at home or in your garage gym.