By now, you likely know about the Blue Zones, areas around the globe where people live the longest and are the healthiest. If you are like us, you may find it to be an inspiring, but a little daunting, aspiration — living your healthiest life. This summer, take small steps towards a big goal. Let’s share some ideas on how to have a Blue Zones summer by taking “exercise snacks.”
What are exercise snacks?
This summer, take small steps towards a big goal. One of our favorite ways is taking “exercise snacks”. No, we’re not talking about the calories you burn while reaching for a bag of chips. An exercise snack is a short, easy form of exercise that gives you similar benefits as longer, more sustained workouts. Famously, Blue Zones populations do not specifically exercise, they simply move naturally every 20 minutes or so. Exercise snacks are the perfect way to integrate movement into your daily life.
How are exercise snacks beneficial to our health?
Mixing food by hand versus a blender or sweeping instead of a robot vacuum are all examples of exercise snacks. Gardening requires digging into the dirt, sowing seeds, weeding, and harvesting, which are also “snacks.” A study of more than 44,000 adult men and women from four different countries showed a reduced risk of early death by engaging in just 30- 40 minutes of exercise each day. Even more exciting is that a benefit was realized with even just 11 minutes of activity for those who are otherwise sedentary. Simply put, the more you move, the more calories you burn, and the faster your metabolism will be. The key is to make these activities vigorous — and that’s different for different people. It only has to be vigorous for you.
Exercise snacks don’t need to be highly structured, either. They can be as simple as including short bursts of speed during a daily walk or when climbing stairs. Dancing a few times a day is an exercise snack that’s fun for the entire family. When you are talking on the phone, walk in place or around the room. Set an alarm to get up and move at least once an hour to do some walking, squats, jumping jacks, or household chores like sweeping, gardening, or hand washing dishes. In addition to muscle strength and cardiovascular health, short exercise snacks before meals help control blood sugar levels, so they can be particularly effective to prevent type 2 diabetes*, heart disease and other related conditions. A Blue Zones diet, primarily plant based, includes plenty of nuts, seeds, and beans, as well as occasional meat and alcohol consumption. This diet complements the benefits of exercise snacks.
What are some examples of exercise snacks?
The table below provides you with a “Move Naturally” menu of exercise snacks to try:
|Dance to your favorite song||4 minutes|
|Take the stairs||1 minute|
|Walk to your local coffee shop||25 minutes|
|Do 10 walking lunges||30 seconds|
|Call a friend and walk while you chat||10 minutes|
|Tend to your indoor or outdoor garden||5 minutes|
|Take a walk outside||30 minutes|
|Make sourdough bread||30 minutes|
The beauty of exercise snacks is that you need no special equipment. The cardiovascular and muscle strength benefits come from lifting and moving your body weight.
* If you’re looking for more information on how to better understand your risk for type 2 diabetes, please visit Don’t feed the diabetes! – an initiative here in Monterey County to help us make better choices for healthier living.
This article also appears in the summer 2022 issue of the Aspire Advocate quarterly member newsletter. You can access the full issue here along with past issues.