Ever Heard of an Exercise Snack

August 29, 2021

Ever Heard of an Exercise SNACK?


You hate to exercise. It's hard to be committed. You can't get the time to do it. Ok, so you need some sort of strategy to get yourself the benefits of exercise. Consider an "exercise snack." Dr Gibala, from McMaster University in Canada, did just that. He got 27 young men (average age 27 +/- 8 year) and had them do three little bursts of biking exercise interspersed with more casual biking using minimal energy. Total time: 10 minutes. He then compared that to 50 minutes of traditional, good hard training. Twelve weeks of each and presto: no difference in the two groups. Both got better and have markedly improved insulin scores, glucose sensitive, etc. That was nifty.


He liked that idea so much, he tried it out with even a shorter time frame of exercise. He recruited inactive young adults to do 20-second bike "sprint snacks" in which they pedaled as fast as they could. Repeat three times a day. Just 20 seconds. After six weeks, their cardiorespiratory fitness improved by 9, about the same as the 13% increase the control group got by doing the same sprints for 10-minute cycling sessions. That was just published last week in the European Jr of Applies Physiology.. The exercise snack was born


This builds on another study Gabala published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that sedentary and untrained but otherwise healthy women improved their fitness by doing just 20 seconds of vigorous stair climbing three times a day for three weeks. Triglycerides, insulin sensitivity all got better. He's been on this streak for a while.


That's three studies that all show the same thing. Tiny bits of exercise improve your fitness. We are just asking for 20 seconds. Three times a day. Stairs will do. What's happening? In the first twenty seconds, you don't even breath harder and you are actually running on lactate from burning local glucose. Your breathing is still just starting to increase. You make a teeny, tiny amount of acid making lactate around your muscleswith that 20 second burst. And that makes your muscles grow bigger, your ability to keep sugar lower gets better, your lipids look better, your insulin level gets lower because you become more insulin sensitive. All good.


www.What will Work for me. I have a wooden cube in my office to test fitness. It's a high step to do. But there it is. I tried it for 20 seconds right after seeing this research. I like it. Felt good. Didn't get sweaty. I'm going to do more. Want a cube for yourself? Made of nice hard butcher block. I have a carpenter if you call the office. Custom made. Exercise snack, almost comparable to sweat. Now, with the pandemic, I've been biking a lot. I don't go very hard or very fast. Good joggers occasionally over-take us. But most of our routes have little hills that take 20-30 seconds to overcome. Biking three times a week and three little hills, no wonder I feel in better shape.


References: PLOS One, Med Sci Sports Exercise, Bioscience Horizons, McMaster University,


Pop Quiz


1. To get the benefits of exercise, you have to go at least 20 minutes and get your heart rate up....yes or no? Answer: No, go back and read the above articles. You get about 70 % of the same effect with tiny little bursts of peak exercise.

2. Can you name a simple equivalent that women can easily do? Answer: Sure, just two flights of stairs. Or get a block of wood or a step and do some stair stepping.

3. How many times a day do I need to do this? Answer: Come on, if you didn't get that, go back and read. 3

4. What might this be kicking off that induces the beneficial effect. Answer: you run off lactate in the first 30 seconds of exercise. That lowers your muscle pH and kicks off a tiny bit of stress.

5. For the 5 million years we were hunter-gatherers, what might this be the equivalent of? Answer: Scamper up a tree to escape the hyena, dodge the lion, capture the springbok, get out of the rain.....we are suited to put out little bursts of energy to get something we really want. That does not include a race to the fridge.


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