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As a soon-to-be college graduate juggling a full-time school schedule and working 32 hours a week at two internships, I’d say my free time is pretty much nonexistent. I spend most of my day sitting an office desk, on a dirty subway, or squished into a tiny desk at school. I essentially sit all day and have no time to exercise. When it comes to living a healthier lifestyle, I was in need of a shortcut: enter exercise snacking. Basically, it's a shorter form of exercise that still promotes health benefits. I tried this exercise snacking routine without knowing what to expect, but the science behind it was promising.
A study published in Canadian Science Publishing (CSP) in 2018 suggested that short bursts of exercise, aka an “exercise snack,” can be a beneficial form of exercise for those who skip the gym because of busy schedules. The workout plan is simple: sprint up the stairs until you reach the next floor, take a two-minute break and repeat two more times. According to the study in CSP, if you complete this heart-racing “exercise snack” three times a day, with a break one to four hours in between each “snack,” you can improve your heart health and reduce the risk of developing heart disease. I tried exercise snacking for a day to see if I could feel the results, and here's what happened.
I’m Out of Shape
For my first exercise snack, I was a little nervous. I had to dart up the stairs in a dress (thank goodness I wore tights) and 2-inch heels. I began my first sprint and rushed up the stairs until I reached the next floor. It seemed easy — almost too easy — but that wasn't the case after I took my two-minute break. By the second and third sprint, I was starting to feel short of breath and my heart was racing. I could have blamed this on my mild case of asthma, but that’d be a stretch. I haven’t spent much time doing cardio for the last few months and clearly, I was just out of practice.
I strolled back into the office with a sense of accomplishment and a slightly red face. The short burst of exercise didn’t leave me sweaty, which allowed me to sit back at my desk and continue working as usual. I made a mental note to wear flats the next time I go for a "snack" run.
I Felt Weird Doing This In Front of Other People
In the CSP study, subjects were allowed 20 seconds to complete their sprint up the 20 steps, and during my last snack, I completed my sprint in under 10. For round two, I felt a greater sense of confidence walking to the stairwell for my second snack.
But that changed when someone walked into the stairwell as I was "snacking," and we exchanged an awkward glance. He was probably wondering what the heck I was doing. Admittedly, exercise snacking could appear strange to an unsuspecting co-worker who decides to take the stairs instead of the elevator, but I tried not to let it distract me.
When I returned to my desk, I felt like I had a new surge of energy. It wasn’t like I’d just had a fresh cup of coffee, but I definitely jumped back into my work more focused and with greater concentration than I had when I’d left to sprint. Plus, it kept me focused and motivated on my to-do list until it was time for my next trip to the stairs.
I Was More Aware of What I Was Eating
By noon, it was time for my third and final exercise snack of the day. At this time in my day, I’d usually be rummaging through the snacks in the kitchen, but my interest in eating an unhealthy treat was non-existent after my third sprint. I didn't even touch the blueberry glazed donut I’d had sitting in my bag all day (yes, I stored a donut in my purse). Interestingly enough, exercise snacking throughout the workday almost made me feel like I was at the gym. I don’t know about you, but I tend to not snack when I’m walking on the treadmill or putting my all into a workout on the elliptical. Similarly, I didn’t want to snack in between my sprints, since it felt counterintuitive.
I’m not saying that exercise snacking could replace a full 30-minute workout, but each sprint raised my heart rate, increased my energy levels, and kept me from mindless workplace eating. So, if you’re like me and don’t have enough time in the day to sleep, let alone exercise, you might want to give exercise snacking a try. You could be pleasantly surprised how easy it is to exercise for a few minutes each day at work and the benefits you’ll receive from it. Taking a break from my desk also helped me focus throughout the day, so for me, it was a win-win.