We all know that being more active is good for our health. And when it comes to your workday, getting some activity in can make you feel happier, less stressed, and more productive.

But it can be difficult to exercise when you’ve got to commute to and from work, work a full day, and tick off all of your regular daily chores as well. Lots of people don’t have time for a full hour-long gym workout or run on a workday. That’s where the current trend of ‘fitness snacks’ comes in handy.

Fitness snacks are short bursts of activity that give you all the benefits of a workout without needing to find a full hour in your workday. In fact, some experts think multiple fitness snacks might be more beneficial than one dedicated exercise session. Here are 10 ideas for fitness snacks that suit every kind of job, schedule, and workplace.

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What are exercise snacks?

Most people think of exercise as dedicated sessions in the gym, or perhaps a workout class or yoga session. Exercise snacks or fitness snacks are a new concept in staying active. Research shows that short bursts of activity throughout the day can burn calories, improve cardiovascular health, and prevent the downsides of a sedentary lifestyle. And the best thing? You don’t need to go to a gym, change your clothes, or find time for a shower afterwards.

How can you make your work day more active?

Fitness snacks or exercise snacks are a great way to reframe the challenge of being active on your work days. Of course it’s great if you can get to the gym, do a class, or play your favourite sport. But perhaps knowing that experts also recommend short bursts of activity will help you be more active.

Fitness snacks can be done instead of formal exercise, or as well as your usual workout routine. There’s really no downside to doing several short bursts of movement throughout your work day.

What are the risks of being inactive at work?

Before we give you a list of fitness snack ideas to try during the work day, let’s recap the known risks of too much inactivity. Experts now believe that sitting for long periods poses serious risks to short and long term health. So, if you commute to work by car or public transport, and spend most of your day at your desk or in meetings, you should strive to be more active.

Sitting for more than a couple of hours at a time is linked to poor circulation, impacts on heart health, blood pressure, and the body’s ability to break down bodyfat. It obviously also reduces your calorie output, which will have a significant impact on your total calorie burn for the day.

Being inactive has been linked to longer term risks including obesity, type 2 diabetes, reduced life expectancy and even some cancers. Sitting for too long is also linked to postural issues, back pain, and neck pain which can be debilitating.

How long do we need to exercise to get the benefits?

The good news is that we don’t have to do long bouts of exercise to get the physical health benefits of activity. 150 minutes of moderate physical activity across the week is still the benchmark, but this can be achieved in a number of ways. If you’ve got 2 minutes to walk up a flight of stairs, that counts as 2 minutes of your 150 minute goal.

Short bursts of activity are also great for mental wellbeing, which has obvious benefits for your work day. The bottom line is, all activity and movement makes a difference. Don’t discount any opportunity to get some movement in throughout the day.

10 “fitness snacks” ideas for the office or working from home

1. Bodyweight movements – ideal if you’re working from home. Get up and do 10 bodyweight squats, 10 lunges, 10 press ups (or a variation) and a 15-second plank. Repeat as many times as you’ve got time for. Even twice through is plenty!

2. Isometric holds – research shows that isometric holds (holding the body in one position) has big benefits for strength, heart health, and blood pressure. Try wall sits (holding your body in a squat position with your back against a wall), planks, or side planks. Aim to hold for 30-60 seconds.

3. Yoga break – take 2-5 minutes to do some simple yoga positions. The best ones are the ones you can do confidently in the space you have available. Forward folds, downward dogs, or a simple sun salutation flow is ideal.

4. Stair climbing – 2 minutes of climbing up the stairs in your office is a great way of getting a fitness snack into your day. Stairs will work your leg muscles, burn calories, and boost your cardiovascular capacity.

5. Walking meetings – suggest a walk for team meetings or 1-1 catch-ups, rather than sitting down.

6. Walking phone calls – whenever you take a phone call, get up and walk (or just pace around) for the duration of the call.

7. Radio dance along – if you work from home – or work in a particularly fun office – get up and do bodyweight exercises or just dance whenever a nominated song comes on. Make it a popular one that’s sure to be on the playlist.

8. Desk stretches – have you got 1 minute between calls or video meetings? Do 45 seconds of desk-based stretches for your neck, shoulders, upper back, and wrists.

9. Fast walk lunchbreaks – make it your mission to get outside and go for a 10-minute fast walk after lunch. This will help digestion as well as give you fitness benefits.

10. Active commuting – find a way to incorporate more movement into your commute. This might mean walking or cycling, or just parking a little further away or getting off at a different bus stop. It all counts.

Are short ‘exercise snacks’ really worth it?

Numerous studies and research papers from esteemed sources including the European Heart Journal report that several 2 minute bursts of activity during the day can have a measurable impact on your health, including the prevention of serious health risks like heart attack and stroke. We all have 2 minute gaps in the work day, so why not use them to get active and do something great for your health?