• Mar 2024

What are exercise snacks? Why you should add these to your routine

What are exercise snacks? Why you should add these to your routine
  • Adding little bursts of movement throughout the day called “exercise snacks” can improve energy and metabolism. 
  • Exercise snacks are short bouts of physical activity that generally only about a minute. (1)
  • Exercise snacking is effective for promoting healthy glucose levels, improving heart health, and increasing energy levels. (1,2)

If the idea of long workouts seems intimidating or impossible to fit into your busy schedule, try increasing your daily movement with exercise snacks. Based on the concept of “snacking,” exercise snacks encourage physical activity in shorter, higher intensity workouts that typically last about a minute. (1) Exercise snacking has been shown to benefit overall health and wellness.

What are exercise snacks?

Exercise snacks are short bouts of vigorous physical activity, typically lasting about a minute or less, that are performed periodically throughout the day. (1) These “snacks” are feasible and time-efficient way to improve cardiorespiratory fitness and reduce the negative impact of sedentary behavior on cardiometabolic health. (1) The goal is to break up sedentary time and get your heart pumping and muscles working which elicit some of the beneficial effects of exercise on your metabolism. 

Doing these exercise snacks from time to time during the day can help your glucose control, improve heart health, and increase your energy levels. (1,2)

How are exercise snacks different from other forms of exercise?

The main difference between exercise snacks and other exercise is not the movement itself — it’s the amount of time you engage in them and the intensity in which you do them. Traditional exercise may be thought of as something like a 15-minute jog or 20 minutes of continuous movement that is done at a consistent effort or potentially bouts of higher effort intermixed with bouts of lower effort, while an exercise snack typically last less than a minute to a max of just a few minutes and is performed at a higher intensity. (1)

Besides the length and intensity of each exercise snack, another difference between exercise snacks and regular exercise is the overall time frame exercise snacks are completed in. Exercise snacks are not consecutive exercises. Rather than working out for a full 20-30 minutes, exercise snacks allow you to break up your day with a few separate bursts of movement that can be spaced out hours apart from each other. Exercise snacks may also be referred to as “intermittent physical activity.”

What are the health benefits of exercise snacks?

Incorporating exercise snacks into your routine may offer some health benefits, including: 

Improving heart health and disease risk: as few as two or three short bouts of just 3–4 min vigorous movement per day, such as very fast walking or stairclimbing was associated with substantially lower all-cause, cardiovascular disease and cancer mortality risk. (3, 4)

Glucose control: Evidence suggests that a high volume of uninterrupted sedentary time is an independent risk factor for cardiometabolic diseases, including type 2 diabetes. (5) Exercise snacks are useful in reducing disease risk because they can lower glucose after meals by shuttling glucose into muscles to be metabolized for energy. Movements that target the legs and lower body seem to be the most effective as these are typically the largest muscles in the body. Think: brisk walking, stairclimbing, air squats.   

Improved energy levels, mood, and cognitive performance: A 2016 study in 30 sedentary individuals found that exercise snacks improved both mood and energy levels. They also found a slight decrease in appetite before lunch when compared to those that were instructed to sit all day. (2) Additionally, a small study found that exercise snacks, done by taking the stairs vs the elevator, improved divergent (aka creative) thinking by 61% compared to those who just took the elevator. (7)

Maintaining muscle mass: A 2022 study found that exercise snacks performed after meals helped maintain muscle mass and quality (how dense, strong, and efficient your muscles are). The research found that just 2 minutes of walking or bodyweight sit-to-stand squats allowed the body to use more amino acids from meals to build muscle proteins. (8)

How can I incorporate exercise snacks into my routine?

It’s useful to break up long periods of sitting with short bouts of movement. Take a short brisk walk, or do a few rounds of resistance exercises like squats, knee raises, or calf raises. This can help your glucose levels and prevent the damage that sitting all day can do. (3, 4, 6)

Try this: 

  • Set your alarm for each hour and get moving for a minute. Do jumping jacks, burpees, lunges, or anything that gets your body moving.
  • When watching TV, do a few jumping jacks during commercial breaks. 
  • Waiting for the kettle to boil? Dance around to your favorite tune or do a few push-ups. 
  • Fit in some squats or lunges while brushing your teeth.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.

A final note from Lingo

Exercise snacks are short, intense sessions of movement lasting less than a minute to just a few minutes, done throughout the day. Some ways to incorporate exercise snacking include walking, climbing stairs, or performing bodyweight movements like squats, lunges, and push-ups, spread out throughout the day. 

Exercise snacking has been shown to improve long-term health risk, glucose control, mood and energy levels, cognitive performance and help to maintain muscle mass. Using a continuous glucose monitor like Lingo can help you understand how incorporating exercise snacks into your daily routine can help limit glucose spikes and improve your overall quality of life. (9)  

Lingo is not a medical device and not designed to treat or diagnose any disease or illness. If you have medical questions or concerns regarding your glucose, please contact your doctor.


  1. Islam H, et al. Exercise Snacks: A Novel Strategy to Improve Cardiometabolic Health. Exerc Sport Sci Rev. 2022 Jan 1;50(1):31-37. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34669625/ 

  2. Bergouignan A, et al. Effect of frequent interruptions of prolonged sitting on self-perceived levels of energy, mood, food cravings and cognitive function. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2016 Nov 3;13(1):113. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27809874/ 

  3. Stamatakis E, et al. Association of wearable device-measured vigorous intermittent lifestyle physical activity with mortality. Nat Med. 2022 Dec;28(12):2521-2529. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36482104/ 

  4. Jones MD, et al. Exercise Snacks and Other Forms of Intermittent Physical Activity for Improving Health in Adults and Older Adults: A Scoping Review of Epidemiological, Experimental and Qualitative Studies. Sports Med. 2024 Jan 8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/38190022/ 

  5. Gillen JB, et al. Interrupting prolonged sitting with repeated chair stands or short walks reduces postprandial insulinemia in healthy adults. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2021 Jan 1;130(1):104-113. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33180640/

  6. Dempsey PC, et al. Benefits for Type 2 Diabetes of Interrupting Prolonged Sitting With Brief Bouts of Light Walking or Simple Resistance Activities. Diabetes Care. 2016 Jun;39(6):964-72. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27208318/ 

  7. Matsumoto K, et al. The Effect of Brief Stair-Climbing on Divergent and Convergent Thinking. Front Behav Neurosci. 2022 Jan 28;15:834097. doi: 10.3389/fnbeh.2021.834097. PMID: 35153696; PMCID: PMC8831728.

  8. Moore DR, et al. Walking or body weight squat "activity snacks" increase dietary amino acid utilization for myofibrillar protein synthesis during prolonged sitting. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2022 Sep 1;133(3):777-785. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/35952344/ 

  9. Jarvis PRE, et al. Continuous glucose monitoring in a healthy population: understanding the post-prandial glycemic response in individuals without diabetes mellitus. Metabolism. 2023 Sep;146:155640. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/37356796/ 

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