The realisation that you’ve let yourself go and gained some unwanted love handles is one that usually accompanies a complete overhaul. The fridge and pantry is raided and cleansed of anything that isn’t green or belonging to the vegetable family. Wardrobes are looked at with a discerning eye. Ill-fitting pants serve as a reminder of what we used to be and with that, gym clothes are purchased and laid out on the floor, a calendar open on our bedside table dictating how our lives will now revolve around lengthy sessions in the gym or miles logged in the streets.
When you want that weight gone, you want it gone fast, and suddenly our lives are upended in the quest to do so. But as it turns out, you don’t have to go to such extraordinary lengths for weight loss. Sure, three hours of cardio might see you torch fat, but sometimes getting in these workout efforts just isn’t possible. That doesn’t mean you’ve failed or it’s time to give up. Rather, perhaps we should be looking to “exercise snacks” as a sustainable means of weight loss.
According to exercise scientists at the University of British Columbia, just 15 to 30 seconds of aerobic activity like climbing stairs, performed once an hour for eight hours, can significantly improve your health if you’re finding it hard to stay in shape. The researchers discovered that two to four total minutes of movement during the workday, when you’d otherwise be sedentary, can lower insulin levels, which serves as a marker for diabetes and heart disease.
Not surprisingly, researchers called these mini exercise efforts, “exercise snacking”, referring to bite-size bits of movement that add up to a more considerable day’s worth of exercise. As Jonathan Little, co-author of the study, explains: “Even for a single day of exercise snacks, the effect on improved metabolism are immediate.”
If it sounds implausible, consider this: “When we’re sedentary for several hours during the workday, our muscles are not used and our metabolic rate is reduced. The result is that we can become insulin-resistant. But even as little as one 15-second exercise snack an hour appears to boost sensitivity to insulin such that the muscles and other body tissues can process nutrients more efficiently and our metabolism is improved,” according to Little.
If you don’t have an opportunity to carve out an hour at the gym during a workday, consider instead doing something like running in place - ok, perhaps an eyebrow-raiser at the workplace. Alternatively, you could do jumping jacks, air squats, some lunges, or just climb a flight of stairs. As Little suggests, you basically want to do anything that gets your heart pumping.