Have you heard of “exercise snacking”? Read on to learn more about this new fitness movement and whether it’s effective — plus we feature easy exercise snacks you can do at home or at work from Angela Ioannou and PT Lavina Mehta.

All it takes is 20-30 minutes of exercise five times a week, say the experts. Yet there are still millions of us struggling to fit fitness into our hectic schedules. Time is often the main sticking point when it comes to fitness goals.

But fear not, as there’s a new phenomenon on the block to help with this and it’s known as “exercise snacking” (sadly this doesn’t mean chomping on food while you work out – we wish!).

What is exercise snacking?

‘Exercise snacking is about breaking down your recommended daily allowance of exercise into five-minute stints spread throughout the day,’ explains Angela Ioannou, National Group Exercise Manager at SLM – Everyone Active (everyoneactive.com).

‘The science behind it actually shows that breaking longer workouts down into a few shorter bursts not only allows you to fit them into your schedule, but they can be more beneficial in controlling your blood sugar levels, too.

‘Exercising in this way has also been proven to reduce stress. When you work out for too long your body’s stress hormone, cortisol, begins to rise. Cortisol actually encourages destruction of muscle tissue rather than growth, and working out for too long can cause these levels to spike, meaning exercise snacking could be the way forward,’ she says.

Another bonus of this type of exercise is that you don’t need any equipment or in-depth knowledge to get going – and, of course, each session only takes minutes.

‘Exercise snacking is easy to fit into your life, particularly if you’re new to exercise or if you want to build more movement into your day but don’t have much time,’ says Lavina Mehta MBE (feelgoodwithlavina.com), a personal trainer and wellness coach, who was awarded an MBE for services to health and fitness.

‘Any sort of movement that breaks up prolonged periods of sitting is beneficial to your health. If you exercise frequently, those feel-good happy hormones will be released every time to boost your mood and mental health too.’

So, these bite-size workouts are a great way to kickstart a fitness routine by making short bursts of exercise part of your everyday life.

Why does exercise snacking work?

‘It’s hard to motivate yourself to work out when you’re experiencing peri/menopausal symptoms, such as hot flushes, joint pains, low mood, disrupted sleep and exhaustion, but often these symptoms can be exacerbated by lack of movement,’ says Lavina.

‘Exercise can help by releasing feel-good endorphins that boost your mood. It’s also key to helping reduce risks of many chronic illnesses, such as type 2 diabetes, dementia and osteoporosis – all of which are more common as we approach midlife and beyond.

‘Regular strength training can help you reduce body fat, which increases for many women due to changes in hormones. Plus, it helps build and preserve bone density and muscle mass, which is vital for reducing the risks of osteoporosis.’

So, whether you’re working or busy at home, you can always squeeze in a five-minute workout wherever you are.

5-minute Top-to-toe workouts

Try Angela Ioannou’s exercises in five different workout combinations throughout your day. As with any quick workout, the key is to go from one muscle group to the other.

This will minimise risk of poor form and injury and will also help you work your whole body. Angela recommends 40 seconds of exercise followed by 20 seconds of rest before moving on to the next exercise…

Workout 1

Star jumps, mountain climbers, squats, surface press-ups, lunges

Workout 2

Star jumps, bicycle crunches, kickbacks, surface press-ups, ski squats

Workout 3

Mountain climbers, superman, squats, shoulder bridge, kickbacks

Workout 4

Shoulder bridge, surface press-ups, kickbacks, star jumps, lunges

Workout 5

Lunges, bicycle crunches, star jumps, squats, kickbacks

Total time: 25 minutes per day if you do all the above throughout the day!

Lavina’s workplace exercise snacks

PT Lavina Mehta invites you to weave these moves into your working day to stay mobile while at your desk.

1. Stretch snack

Simple head rotations, arm circles and shoulder shrugs are great at alleviating common “tech-neck” issues at work. Focus on your breath as you do them to alleviate stress, anxiety and muscle tension, and aid muscle recovery.

2. Desk strength snack

You can do a quick snack of squats, dips and lunges during your coffee break while at your desk. Just remember to turn your computer camera off if you’re in an online meeting! Try adding weights as you progress, which can be bottles of water or your rucksack.

3. Stair snacking

Always take the stairs! It’s an easy way to exercise snack. I recommend three flights of stairs three times a day – a good time is after each meal.

4. Feelgood walk snack

Go for a 10-minute walk outdoors, ideally in nature, during your lunch break, or turn a meeting (virtual or in person) into a walking meeting. This boosts your productivity and mood too.

5. Set an alarm

Get up and move every hour. Walk around or try a minute of star jumps or high knees – a great way to get a HIIT snack in!

For free Feelgood Workouts by Lavina that you can do anywhere, visit her on YouTube and Instagram. Lavina’s book, The Feel Good Fix will be published by Penguin Life in May 2024 and is available to pre-order now.

Words: Katy Sunnassee. Images: Shutterstock, feelgoodwithlavina.com

Read more: 10 quick ‘exercise snacks’ to up your fitness