All in all, exercising just isn’t easy. Finding time to exercise is hard. Sticking to a schedule is trying. Getting the energy for a full workout is difficult. And, unless you are a fitness enthusiast, doing a complete workout isn’t much fun. For blood sugar control, the good news is an exercise “snack” can help prevent spikes. And, research shows that exercise snacks can build up to fitness results.
This is especially welcome news right now. The weather is terribly cold in a lot of the country. The days are short, and sometimes you just need a break from an exercise routine. It’s important not to give up on all physical exercise, even when you’re tired. As little as two sedentary weeks can set you back in your health goals. But it’s fair to cut yourself some slack at this time of year, especially this year!
Taking “moving breaks” during periods of sitting can help your body regulate blood sugar. During eight-hour stretches of sitting, merely getting up and walking for two minutes or doing chair stands for a minute every half hour can help prevent blood sugar spikes after a meal.
“Importantly, repeated chair stands require no equipment or space beyond one’s sedentary area and may represent a practical strategy for mitigating cardiometabolic disease risk associated with prolonged periods of sitting,” said Prof. Jenna Gillen of the Univ. of Toronto. “These findings are especially timely now when many individuals are looking for physical activity strategies that can be performed at home without the need for additional space or equipment.”
Prof. Gillen said that the little exercise snacks can’t replace a full exercise routine, but we’ll take the help we can get! Your goal should be around 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week. How you get there is up to you!
Another study found that doing an intense workout for six minutes — in one-minute bursts — before a meal reduced spikes more than doing a standard, more moderate, 30-minute workout half an hour before dinner. The study’s use of intense exercise might not make it suitable for everyone. But, it might make you interested in moving a bit before meals. If you have a stretching routine or light workout you enjoy and can do from home, consider doing it right before eating your meal.
The study’s lead author Monique Francois, a doctoral student at the Univ. of Otago, said, “Dosing these small amounts of exercise before meals (particularly breakfast and dinner) may be a more time efficient way to get exercise into people’s day, rather than devoting a large chunk of the day.”
We agree! You can make it part of your day in a five-minute window instead of trying to carve out a large amount of time. Other exercise snacks can include tackling your household chores over the course of the day instead of all at once, so you get up and move.
Shorter bursts of exercise are easier for many of us who aren’t in great shape. And, more and more science is showing that short workouts are beneficial. “Rather than blow off your workout because you don’t have the time or motivation for a 45- or 60-minute session, know there is good scientific evidence validating the efficacy of short workouts,” said Prof. Martin Gibala of McMaster Univ. who studies interval training.
His research suggests that it’s not about doing a workout all at once but collecting your actions over time. “The most important thing for most individuals is not the workout itself, it’s how much they move,” said Prof. Gibala. “Keep the big picture in mind: however you can accumulate your ideally 150 minutes a week, it all counts.”