What is exercise snacking? (And should you be doing it)

I’m a big fan of snacking. Big fan. And undoubtedly you would have heard all about the benefits of breaking down your day into smaller meals, rather than three big sittings. Unfortunately, this isn’t quite a snack story post, but about another interesting concept…exercise snacking.

Sorry, what? The phrase is coined from research conducted recently by science journal Diabetologia, which indicated that instead of going to the gym once a day, breaking your exercise down into “bite sized” chunks would be more beneficial overall. In this theory, your volume of exercise stays the same, as does the total duration – it is just spread evenly across the day rather than completed in one “sitting”.

So why do this? Well much like the theory behind incorporating regular food snacks into your day, exercise snacking manages to stabilise and control your blood sugar levels over a 24 hour period.

Within the study – which examined a group of pre-diabetic, insulin-resistant individuals – it was noted that when the participants worked at a high intensity level (90% of their max heart rate) for 6x1 minute intervals before meal times ­– breakfast, lunch and dinner – their blood sugar levels dropped significantly more than when they completed a 30 minute session of moderate intensity (60% of MHR). What’s even more favourable, this activity then resulted in lowered blood sugar levels for a further 24 hours which is beneficial in aiding AND increasing insulin sensitivity.

Sounds way more manageable to a busy schedule, right? Well that’s another benefit. The exercise snacking technique helps eradicate the common excuse of “I don’t have the time”. Now it’s not just about blocking out a huge chunk of your morning, but rather seeing if you can fit a 6 minute HIIT interval in the morning, a 15-minute brisk walk at lunch and perhaps 20 mins of strength and resistance training at home in the evening. The key though is making sure you really focus on the intensity, looking for those short bursts of intervals which will ramp up your heart rate.

What are you waiting for? Get snacking!