Why You Should Start ‘Exercise Snacking’

Jan 23, 2021, 12:53 PM

AMERICAN FORK, Utah – With more people working from home and spending time on virtual calls, it’s likely many are sitting for hours on end. One Utah man is breaking up the day through “exercise snacking” — and no, it doesn’t involve a trip to the pantry.

Jayden Bell will be the first to admit sitting or standing at a desk all day isn’t easy. He used to compete in professional mixed martial arts and was a personal trainer.

“I was extremely active. I was jumping around. I was doing the exercises with everyone … in the class, and that was great. I loved that,” he said.

Jayden Bell uses a stand-up desk so he isn’t sitting for extended hours each day. He also takes regular ‘exercise snacks’ throughout the day to keep his body moving. (KSL-TV)

However, things changed when he got his first desk job a few years ago.

“But then after I had my first day, I just felt sick because I just sat all day. And I really had never just sat at a desk in front of a screen all day long,” Bell explained.

He said it was depressing “because I realized, ‘Is this my life now? Like, I just sit here at a desk and just stare at a screen?'”

“Your body is not meant to be crunched over all day. It’s terrible on your back. It’s terrible on your neck, which then causes tension in your neck and gives you headaches,” he explained.

Bell found it was harder to stay active and work out as he began working more intense hours. He was determined to find a way to maintain a fit and active lifestyle while working a corporate job.

That’s when Bell started “exercise snacking.” It’s a fun play on words — not a trip to the pantry, as one might think, but rather a quick break in your day for a brief workout.

Jayden Bell sometimes runs stairs outside during the middle of the workday to step away from his desk and get some fresh air. He says it makes all the difference. (KSL-TV)

“I do a 15-minute workout every two hours of the day, just to be able to kind of keep myself moving throughout the day,” he said.

Dr. Jake Veigel, a sports medicine physician with Intermountain Healthcare, said you can vary the intensity of your exercise throughout the day.

“You can do something that’s high intensity, like jumping jacks or burpees, or we can do something that’s a little bit lower intensity, like pushups or situps, and that doesn’t make you sweat as much,” he suggested. “It’s definitely going to give you a benefit. No doubt about it.”

“So even though it’s only 15 minutes, I got my heart rate up, I got my blood flowing and loosened up my muscles. So, it really made me feel a lot more healthy throughout the day,” Bell said.

It also motivated him to improve other aspects of his health. “I started drinking more water and feeling more healthy that way, and I started bringing my meals to work with me, and I started meal prepping,” he said.

Veigel said sitting for extended periods of time is not good for your health and can have a negative impact on someone’s neck, back and hips. He encourages people to at least stand up once every hour. “I don’t think we were really meant to be in a sitting position for so long,” he said.

He said taking regular breaks to exercise throughout the day can improve someone’s posture and energy levels.

“If you get up and you do something that’s active and get that heart rate up a little bit, you’re gonna wake yourself up, you’re going to feel better, and you’re going to be more alert throughout the day. It helps with that post-lunchtime fatigue,” Veigel explained.

“I would go do my workout, and I’d come back feeling refreshed,” Bell said, adding that it’s improved his mood dramatically. “A lot of people don’t realize that one of the best things you can do for your brain is working out.”

Veigel encouraged people to set a timer and make a goal. “Set a goal to do a plank for a minute, or set a goal to plank for two minutes or five minutes,” he suggested. “If you make it fun like that, where we have goals to accomplish, I think it’s easier to do.”

“If you’re not exercising at all in the morning, you should definitely do something like this because it gets you up and moving,” Veigel said. “I would probably start with substitute snacking for exercise. The moment you feel bored enough and you head over to the refrigerator or the pantry, take a right- or left-hand turn to the living room and get down and do five push-ups.”

For Bell, it’s made all the difference.

“I’ll jog up and down my stairs in my backyard. I’ll find some way to get outside and breathe fresh air, and it just makes me so much happier,” Bell said.

Intermountain Healthcare’s Live Well Center offers several free, on-demand resources for more ideas on how to stay active at home.

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Why You Should Start ‘Exercise Snacking’