If you’ve been congratulating yourself for fitting in the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity a week, listen up. Those barre or spin classes might not be enough. On the flip side, if you’re convinced that you don’t have time for exercise, think again.
Exercise scientists are discovering that keeping your heart healthy and your joints limber isn’t simply about meeting the American Heart Association’s suggestions for physical activity. (Though it’s a good place to start.) The truth is that being active for 30 minutes a day doesn’t undo 23.5 hours of sitting. You also have to minimize the overall time you are sedentary. That means seizing tiny opportunities to be active throughout the day.
“Movement snacks,” short bursts of activity incorporated into daily life, can be an effective way of squeezing in motion and maintaining strength and flexibility. Some examples of movement snacks include:
- Taking the stairs to your office
- Parking further away and walking
- Getting outside for a 10-minute walk during lunch
- Watching live TV and doing chores during commercials
- Chasing your kids at the park
- Taking 5 minutes to do stretches at your desk.
Data from one study suggests that older adults who participate in a “little and often” exercise snacking program could improve leg muscle function and size. Leg muscle is critical for daily mobility. While that research focuses on older individuals, movement snacks have the potential to benefit everyone.
When you move your body even for short periods of time you lubricate joints and challenge muscle tissue, both of which contribute to overall physical fitness. For individuals struggling to fit workout time into their lives, movement snacks are a great place to start. Physical activity doesn’t have to occur in a gym for it to be beneficial.
Individuals who already workout regularly can increase their overall activity level by incorporating movement snacks into their days. The more hours people spend doing physical activity of any kind, the lower their risk of chronic illness and death. For the best health, it’s important to move throughout the entire day.
Katina Salvey is a physical therapist at Vancouver Clinic—Columbia Tech Center. She enjoys teaching individuals how to take care of their body and avoid reinjury.