Snack on exercise: boost your health in just four minutes a day

The easiest way to boost your brain, body and mood. Is snacking on exercise the best time-saving way to energise your life, by overcoming the ‘no-time’ barrier and boosting your health and vitality in just four minutes a day.

How would it feel to wake up every morning with fantastic energy and vitality? Picture being the most positive, vibrant version of yourself every day. 

We all know that exercise is essential for great health but with never-ending to-do lists it can easily end up in the ‘too hard’ basket. While working in wellbeing for the last 20 years, people have repeatedly told me the biggest reason they don’t exercise is a lack of time. But what if you could overcome the time barrier? 

If you’re busy and would love more energy and confidence without having to add anything extra to your to-do list, why not ‘snack on exercise’, a concept I shared in my 2018 TEDx Talk. 

Even when you’re busy, you still find time to brush your teeth right? If that’s two minutes morning and night, how about taking four little minutes not just to look after one small part of your body, but to look after your entire body? 

Snacking on four minutes of exercise a day can help keep you healthy, happy and strong for life. You wouldn’t go for days or weeks without brushing your teeth, right?

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to slog it out for hours a week. By fitting short sharp bursts of movement into your day that lift your heart rate and/or strengthen your muscles, you can boost your metabolism, increase your fitness and improve your wellbeing.

Why snack on exercise?

#1 It works 

Research shows that shorter, higher-intensity bursts of exercise can be much more effective at increasing fitness, improving strength and promoting fat loss than longer steady exercise. Studies by McMaster University have shown that three x 20-second bike sprints within a 10 minute protocol, three times a week, was equivalent to cycling for five times as long at a steady pace. Numerous studies reinforce that ‘less can be more’ when it comes to exercise duration. For example, briskly walking up stairs for 20 seconds, three times a day, significantly increased fitness in just six weeks. It only takes seconds to get your heart rate up, especially when you are starting out and as you get fitter you can progress your ‘snacks’ to keep seeing results.

#2 It combats the negatives of sitting

Research shows that having a sedentary lifestyle (which is defined as six or more hours of sitting a day) increases morbidity and mortality more than smoking. In other words, if you sit for extended periods, you’re more likely to get seriously ill earlier and to die younger. This remains true even if you exercise at other times. It’s the hours of continuous sitting that you need to avoid. Instead, break your day up with ‘exercise snacks’. I recommend setting a countdown timer for 25 minute blocks of focused work, and doing a quick dance party, a deskercise routine or a lap of the building each time your timer goes off. You might worry about losing precious time by adding the movement break in, but in fact the opposite is true. After a one-minute break you will be able to refocus on the task at hand much more quickly and effectively, saving time overall.

#3 It changes your brain

Your physiology constantly affects your psychology and active bodies create smarter, happier brains. A short movement break creates
a hormonal response, causing the pituitary gland to release neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, which boost your mood, improve memory and retention, increase accuracy, make you more creative, better at problem solving and more productive overall. It also increases production of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that promotes brain neuron growth and repair. So snacking on exercise benefits not just your physical health but also your mental health.

#4 It is doable 

When you think of exercise as something you’ve got to schedule, go somewhere specific and get changed for, it can create a huge barrier, one that often results in no activity. The goal of the snack on exercise movement is to make exercise an integral and uplifting part of your day. One of my clients who had a baby and a toddler once exclaimed, “Lauren you’ve taken away all my excuses! I used to think after having the kids that I’d never get my fitness back, but now when Ben needs a change I add in press ups and when Sophie asks me to dance I say yes, and add some lunges and jumps and it’s working. I feel fitter and stronger and happier than ever before.”

Imagine having an achievable approach you can stick to for life without the excuses, guilt or stress. 

What you do will depend on your own fitness level and will likely change over time. At 73 it will look different to what you did at 37, but the philosophy applies at any age. 

Rather than seeing exercise as an insurmountable task, simply adopt an active attitude and discover fun ways to snack on exercise anywhere, anytime. Why not choose to be a change agent in your workplace to bring about a vibrant, energised culture where everyone benefits?

Some ideas to get you started:

· Do press ups on the edge of the kitchen counter while the kettle boils

· Jog on the spot or do knee lifts, when you’re on hold or clearing voicemail

· Do squats while checking emails 

· Lunge walk to the photocopier (yes, be a trend-setter!)

· Briskly take every flight of stairs you see 

· Do five star-jumps in every room in your house (get your kids involved too and enjoy the laughter!)

Don’t let the time barrier stop you any longer. Once you discover how simple it can be, you’ll easily improve your health and vitality, creating a positive ripple in your entire life.

Remember, small things add up to make a big difference. Try it out this week and see how it makes you feel. Be a positive catalyst for change in your workplace by encouraging others to join you, creating an energised environment where everyone can thrive. 

Head to snackonexercise.com for more ideas and to join the movement. You will love the vibrancy, confidence and energy that follow!

Try it out:

1. Commit to a snack on exercise for at least four minutes a day.

2. Tell someone supportive what you’re doing so they can encourage you. 

3. Plan the best time of day to suit your lifestyle.

4. Give yourself a visual reminder by ticking each day off on the calendar.

5. Get a friend to join you and keep each other accountable.

6. Choose a reward that you can look forward to once you’ve kept it up for a month.

7. Link your snacks to regular events throughout your day as a reminder and to help you form a strong habit. e.g. after you use the bathroom, each time you get a text message or before each meal. 

8. Do something useful as your snack like cycling to the shops, vacuuming under the furniture, pulling weeds or chopping wood.

9. Share your success with others and keep spreading the positive ripple.

10. The more friends and colleagues that join you the more easily it becomes a part of your lifestyle. 

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