Why ‘exercise snacking’ is set to be the next big office fitness trend

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Moya Crockett
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Research proves it’s effective – and you can do it in the workplace.

If you work in an office, it’s more than likely that your life is pretty sedentary. Yes, we all know that we’re supposed to stretch our legs at lunchtime, that sitting is the new smoking, and that we should try and fit in exercise around our work schedules. However, that’s often easier said than done – especially when it’s dark and cold, and all you want to do at the end of the day is collapse on the sofa in front of Netflix.

But according to new research, there is an easy and effective way to maintain your health and fitness during the working day. ‘Exercise snacking’ is the practice of incorporating bite-size workouts into your day – no fancy equipment or 7am gym sessions required.

In fact, all you need is your office staircase. Researchers at McMaster University and the University of British Columbia Okanagan in Canada found that a few minutes of stair climbing at short intervals throughout the working day can improve your cardiorespiratory fitness – an important health marker linked to longevity and cardiovascular disease risk.

To take part in the study, which was recently published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, one group of sedentary adults vigorously climbed a three-flight staircase, three times per day.

They gave themselves one to four hours of recovery in between each stair climb, and repeated this three times each week over the course of six weeks. 

When the six weeks were up, researchers found that the stair climbers were fitter and stronger compared to a sedentary control group. They also generated more power during a maximal cycling test – suggesting that climbing stairs could give you an edge in your next spinning class.

Jonathan Little, assistant professor of health and exercise sciences at UBC Okanagan and a co-author on the study, said he was “a bit surprised” to see the “stair snacking approach” was so effective.

“Vigorously climbing a few flights of stairs on your coffee or bathroom break during the day seems to be enough to boost fitness in people who are otherwise sedentary,” he said.

Martin Gibala, a professor of kinesiology at McMaster University and senior author on the study, agreed.

“The findings make it even easier for people to incorporate ‘exercise snacks’ into their day,” he said.

“Those who work in office towers or live in apartment buildings can vigorously climb a few flights of stairs in the morning, at lunch, and in the evening and know they are getting an effective workout.”

Images: Getty Images