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Indulge in ‘exercise snacking’ for a healthier, fitter you

By MYLENE MENDOZA-DAYRIT, The Philippine STAR Published Jan 10, 2023 5:00 am

The “one pill, two pill” prescription on exercise (one pill equivalent to 30 minutes of moderate to high-intensity physical activity) by Dr. Jirí Dvorák that I featured last week gives hope to the majority of the population who are sedentary. It doesn’t take much of your time to fulfill the requirements for the physical activities that can help make your mind and body healthier this 2023.

Why should you even consider taking the “exercise pill”?

More than preparing for a beach body, you should consider it for stronger immunity, better overall health, a sounder mind, and better quality of sleep. The benefits far outweigh your excuses.

The launch of the 2018 Global Action Plan on Physical Activity (GAPPA) was eclipsed by the coronavirus pandemic. It was also then that we observed how the sedentary segment became the most seriously affected by it. Hence, the World Health Organization (WHO) is pushing the pedal on the eclipsed program.

Exercise is a choice, but it is also a responsibility that we cannot ignore. Lack of physical activity is so prevalent that the preventable diseases it will bring will cost the world $300 billion in 2030.

WHO declared that the world faces an epidemic of avoidable diseases such as cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure and dementia unless more people become physically active. After studying activity levels in 174 countries, they predicted 500 million people will become seriously ill with these preventable diseases by 2030 unless governments intervene.

The study further claims that the new price tag for treating these diseases will be $300 billion. Half of the cases will result from high blood pressure and more than 20 percent from depression.

One out of four people in general around the world do not meet the minimum requirement of 150 minutes per week of moderate physical activity (300 minutes is ideal). Interestingly, deficiency in physical activity minutes is more prevalent in women with 35 percent of women around the world guilty of it. In comparison, only 20 percent of men around the world do not meet the minimum weekly physical activity requirement. 

While the latest report laments about how only two of the 20 actions in GAPPA have been implemented by most countries, the focus of this article is to convince you to “move, move, move” while the governments get their acts together. Most people are actively and creatively racking up excuses as to why they can’t start any scheduled physical activity. That has to stop. The great thing about exercise is that it can help, no matter how little, as long as it is done regularly and consistently.

Climbing up and down the stairs is a very simple way of increasing your daily activities. The improvement of public transportation is actually one segment of WHO’s Global Action Plan on Physical Activity.

I went through six trusted sites for their 2023 fitness trends and two specifically mentioned “exercise snacking” while another two alluded to it. Exercise snacks are not food breaks, but short bursts of energy, anywhere from one to 10 minutes, done several times a day. It should involve an activity that raises your heart rate and breathing. A quick search on the internet will lead you to a plethora of studies on the subject, most of which monitored a group of subjects doing “exercise snacks” consistently over a period of six to eight weeks.

One such study in 2019 required healthy college students to quickly climb up and down three flights of stairs in their campus thrice a day (morning, noon and late afternoon) daily for six weeks. After the program, they all recorded significant amounts of aerobic fitness and leg strength.

Some say the activity is best done before meals. And to meet the minimum weekly requirement of 150 minutes of moderate activity, you would have to reach 21 minutes per day. That means you can do seven minutes before each meal or you can do a morning and night session of 10 minutes each. If you are doing a high-intensity workout for 10 minutes then it means doing five exercises for a minute with a one-minute rest between every exercise. Studies further reveal that aside from improving muscle strength and cardiovascular health, exercise snacks before meals can help control blood sugar levels.

So what exercises can you do?

There are really plenty to choose from, but the idea is to do something you love. It can be biking or brisk walking. It can be doing jumping jacks or burpees. It can be a short yoga flow. Lunges, squats, push-ups. Running up and down the stairs.

You can even start by just introducing more movement into your daily activities. Mindfulness is the key to constant movement. If you are taking a long audio call then maybe you can lift weights or walk around while doing it, or you can sit on an exercise ball and do some leg lifts. Some also suggest doing one- or two-minute bursts at the beginning or end of every hour for those who sit in front of their computers eight hours a day.