The importance of exercise "snacks."

Updated: Nov 13, 2020

I wake up before the birds are chirping on most mornings, so it’s common that the skies are still dark as night when I get myself out of bed to start my day. I LOVE my mornings. Many mornings I am so excited to get started, I bounce out of bed between 4:00-5:00 a.m. just to squeeze in extra “morning time.” I know this sounds foreign to some of you, but it’s true! My mornings are my time to be in my own head, my own space, brainstorm, work things out, or simply catch up while a many of those on the east coast are sleeping. It’s so quiet and I LOVE quiet!

I am a creature of habit. Many of my mornings and evenings follow a ritual and are nearly carbon copies of each other. That’s how I like it. I love a schedule and feel at my optimum physical and emotional health when I follow one. So, this past Monday morning was very much like many of them. Except it wasn’t.

The pitter patter of rain against the windows made it a little more difficult to “bounce” out of bed. What I really wanted to do was to pull the blankets over my head and catch some more zzzzzz’s! I was feeling exceptionally unmotivated.

I managed to put on my workout clothes, make my way downstairs, brew my coffee, and shuffle into my office. The pups are really good at letting me have my morning time now that they are older, so they laid quietly in their crates as I went through my morning ritual. Truthfully, Zoey doesn’t like moving until she can see the light of day and now that Maxwell can hold out for his potty time, he knows our morning walk is coming around 7:00 am, so he practices patience (on most days). As you can see in a snapshot from their pet cam (below), they are content as I go about my business.

Along with my lack of Monday morning zest, I had no motivation for my morning run. This is pretty rare as I love my morning runs and overall, my workouts are very much part of my daily routines-like eating a meal! Nowadays when my mojo feels off, I make a deal with myself. I give myself 10-15 minutes to get into my flow and if that doesn’t happen? I don’t force it and my activity turns into walking, or I stop all together.

On a side note, I enjoy walking and walk for small blocks of time throughout

almost every day, including my “rest and recovery” days. I have never had a day when I didn’t want to walk. Something about walking, calms me and puts my body in a parasympathetic state (a rest & digest state). It’s also very common once I get into a vigorous workout, such as running, my momentum gets going and I don’t want to stop after 15 minutes!

As a certified personal trainer and clinical exercise physiologist, I understand the importance of regular exercise and physical activity. Regular physical activity helps prevent and manage a variety of health problems such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis, obesity, depression, anxiety, dementia, and even some types of cancer. The health benefits of exercise are indisputable, but there is still some question about the “perfect dose” to promote optimal health and wellbeing.

The American Heart Association (AHA) Recommendations for Physical Activity states adults should get 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity per week (or a combination of both), preferably spread throughout the week. For added health benefits, including weight loss, AHA recommends 300 minutes of aerobic activity spread throughout the week. Moderate-to high intensity muscle strengthening activity (like resistance or weight training) is recommended at least twice a week.

If these numbers seem daunting to hit, I get it! Some days I have trouble squeezing it all in too. And as mentioned, even though some form of movement is part of my daily routine, sometimes I am simply unmotivated to exercise!

What many of you may not realize, is that small doses of exercise DO have an impact on your health and wellbeing. Fifteen minutes, even two minutes have been shown to have an impact on health. Let’s look at the pure physiology of what happens when we move. Bursts of physical activity and movement release energy and endorphins. These bursts, multiple times a day, improve circulation and heart health, build stronger muscles and bones, boost mood and sharpen thinking.

Don’t take my word for it, let’s look at some of the science.

Exercise is Medicine at any dose

Lack of time is reported as one of the most common barriers to exercise, but for those that are “too busy”, even 8-15 minutes is doable!

According to Drs. Eijsvogels and Thompson, who reviewed several studies and published their findings in The Journal of the American Medical Association, concluded that as little as 15 minutes a day of moderate intensity exercise, and only 8 minutes a day of vigorous-intensity exercise reduced the risk of death. The active participants were estimated to have a 3-year longer life expectancy compared with their inactive peers. Also, every additional 15 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity was associated with a 4% further reduction of all-cause mortality (death) over 13 years (2015).