Full disclosure: for me, 60 minutes is the ideal workout length. Any less and I still have something left in the tank; any more and I lose the will to live. A full hour gives you time to warm up and cool down properly, to get your brain out of your inbox, and to feel pretty amazing...
So when I heard about the concept of ‘exercise snacking’ I was unenthused. Not just because I was disappointed to discover it has nothing to do with cheese and crackers or macarons – although, that too. Exercise snacking is the practice of sprinkling short bursts of activity throughout your day, said to total or even surpass the equivalent of one full workout. For example, rather than putting in an hour at the gym before work, an exercise snacker might walk briskly to the train, take the stairs at work, do 15 minutes of Pilates between meetings, and wind down with some yoga before bed.
Or, if you workout at home, it might simply mean doing three short bursts of HIIT throughout your day.
Before I became a mother, I was an exercise class devotee. We’re talking cult-like commitment to barre, vinyasa yoga, HIIT, Pilates, and whatever else I could get a membership for. But unless you live essentially on the doorstep of your studio (which actually, I did for a year of F45), that one hour class requires travel time. You need to allow extra time for parking or inevitable transport delays. You’ll want to get there a few minutes before class starts. Afterwards, you’ll probably stay and chat, or shower, or drink the yoga tea or protein shake or whatever their brand of kool-aid is. By the time you get home, I’d be impressed if the whole expedition came in under the two-hour mark.
As we all know, when you have a baby, two hours may as well be a lifetime. When you’re trying to survive on 4 hours of broken sleep and the smell of the lasagna someone dropped on your doorstep four days ago, 2 hours for exercise does not compute.
When my daughter was a baby, she was a serial snacker (and not of the exercise variety). There were many, many days when I’d be lucky if she was off the boob for 45 minutes at a time. 2 hours? I would have taken 2 minutes. And this is why exercise snacking might just be the key to every new mother’s workout regime. Because while even an hour out of the house may seem impossible with a newborn, 15 minutes here and there can be done. And 15 minutes, repeated even a couple of times a day, adds up.
Australia’s Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines for Adults recommends a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate level activity per week. That’s around 10 exercise snacks per week – only two a day if you take the weekends off. Totally doable, right?
Thankfully, many leading fitness brands have realised the appeal of exercise snacking. The internet is a veritable treasure trove of quick workouts. Try Alo Moves, Blogilates, or even Youtube for 10-15 minute workouts than can be done anywhere. Or, put that baby in a pram and head to the park. If you’re lucky, you might even come across a real snack on the way home.
Photo: Julie Adams