Fun packs of bite-sized exercise


SEIZE THE OPPORTUNITY Try ‘movement snacking’ by incorporating short bursts of some form of movement into your day at regular intervals.


Paul O'Brien

We enjoy snacking between meals to top-up energy stores. We take short naps during the day to catch up on sleep. We complete a small task as part of a larger project. Indeed, doing things in bite-sized chunks is a feature of many aspects of our lives. However, this pattern hasn’t really caught on in terms of exercise. Maybe it’s time it did.

Regular bursts
During a recent professional development course, I was discussing the benefits of regular, short bouts of exercise as a means of developing an exercise habit. One of my fellow professionals said he used the concept of exercise ‘snacking’ to achieve this. I loved the concept and recognised how its simple application could help people develop a more habitual and relaxed relationship with exercise.

Movement snacking
One of the major challenges we face when developing a habit of regular exercise is time. We simply don’t seem to have enough of it left over in our day after the responsibilities of family, work and social commitments. For many, the idea of giving up precious sleep by rising early to exercise is not very alluring either.
Enter exercise, or more precisely, ‘Movement Snacking’. This simple idea involves doing short bursts, anything from one to ten minutes, of some form of movement at regular intervals during your day. Perform a plank or stretch for one minute upon rising; do 20 squats whilst brushing your teeth; take a brisk walk for ten minutes during your lunch break; mobilise your back and shoulders whilst filling your water bottle at work; sit on an exercise ball when watching your favourite television show.

The key to using Movement Snacking is to look for opportunities to take a ‘snack’ in the different situations that occur in your day. This approach changes the paradigm around exercise in several key ways. Firstly, it brings a sense of fun to exercise and movement as you tap into your sense of adventure to find novel ways to incorporate movement into your day.
Secondly, as you develop the practice, you may find it helps to substitute it for some of your more destructive habits – snacking on high-sugar foods or sitting on a couch for hours on end.
Finally, and most importantly, you’ll be developing a movement habit, which research shows will likely lead to even more physical activity, as well as improved health, self-esteem and many other associated benefits.

Family fun
I’m excited about this concept for another reason also. I think it lends itself easily to encouraging children to be more active.
A family could incorporate a sense of friendly competition by keeping score of their daily activities over the course of a week or month. It’s important that the sense of fun is maintained and that prizes, if used, are given in the form of experiences, like a trip to the cinema, a day at the park or zoo or even a healthy family picnic.

Start now
The beauty of this concept is its simplicity. You don’t need to buy any gear, join anything or subscribe to an online programme, you just need to start playing. Your participation in this game will make you stronger and fitter for the bigger game of life.

Paul O’Brien is a certified personal trainer with the American Council on Exercise since 2007 and a qualified Life, Health & Nutrition Coach. He is co-owner of Republic of Fitness in Westport. He can be contacted on 086 1674515 or