“Exercise Snacking” Doesn’t Involve Eating


There’s a new trend in fitness science. It’s called “exercise snacking.” It’s tasty, but not in the way you might think.

We all know the 30-minute-a-day cardio recommendation for the average adult. Now, a new study turns that prescription on its head.

Researchers from the University of Otago in New Zealand found intense one-minute bursts of exercise may be more effective than a long 30-minute block. Think of them as “snack”-size workouts. Researcher Monique Francois told the Science Daily, “Dosing these small amounts of high intensity exercise before meals (particularly breakfast and dinner) may be a more time efficient way to get exercise, rather than devoting a large chunk of the day.”

Eat it, Insulin Resistance!

The results of this paper were specific to people at risk for diabetes. The test measured how exercise before eating helped control post-meal blood sugar spikes.

“30 min of moderate-intensity exercise did not improve blood sugar control, whereas distributing the same volume of exercise as three brief pre-meal high-intensity ‘exercise snacks’ resulted in a mean 12% reduction in the average post-meal glucose level.”

That’s excellent news for diabetes prevention – but the results could have a wider significance as well. This study contributes to a growing body of research that says endurance training isn’t efficient.

Interval Training HIITs Hard

Researchers are finding high intensity interval training (HIIT) delivers just as many cardiovascular benefits as endurance training – but in half the time. This study, for example, measured the cardio improvements of two groups of cyclists: one performed six sets of 30-second all-out sprints; the other group performed 120 minutes of slow-burn endurance. The results surprised the researchers themselves. Despite the significantly lower volume of exercise performed by the HIIT group, both groups showed “remarkably similar changes in exercise capacity.”

“Our results suggest that intense interval training is indeed a time-efficient strategy to induce rapid muscle and performance adaptations comparable to traditional endurance training.”

Other studies have shown HIIT training increases post-workout fat burn,extends post-exercise oxygen consumption, and multiplies cell mitochondria more effectively than endurance training. That’s enough to hang up your distance running shoes for good, right? But don’t give up the slow burn just yet. As Dr. Len Kravitz explains, endurance and interval training have the same endgame: increasing cardiovascular performance. But each method works differently inside the body. Check out this sexy science infographic:


So while exercise “snacks” and HIIT workouts may be the most time-efficient workouts, we shouldn’t stop endurance training altogether. Dr. Kravitz writes, “incorporating a balance of both programs…is clearly the ‘win-win’ approach for successful cardiovascular exercise improvement.”

We’ll keep you updated as more cool research surfaces. In the mean time, try a HIIT routine at home with one of our fav YouTube fitness celebs. And read more about endurance vs. interval training here.

Image: Yuganov Konstantin? Shutterstock

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