From the title of this post you would be forgiven for thinking that I was going to write about snacking before, during or after exercise. Some of you are probably hoping that I have found some evidence that snacking is good for you and that we should be doing more of it. However, the truth about Exercise Snacking is a little different so let’s get in to it.
Dr Michael Mosley
Last week I watched a BBC programme called “Trust Me I’m a Doctor”. I’ve never seen it before but I caught the tail end of an interview on the radio with its main host, Dr Michael Mosely. He was throwing around the term Exercise Snacking and it got me interested.
You may have heard of him before as he has several diet books that are on the market, including the “Blood Sugar Diet” and was responsible for making the 5:2 diet popular in the UK a couple of years ago.
If you aren’t familiar, during the 5:2 diet you restrict your calories to 25% for two days of the week and then eat normally for the rest of the time.
This is also called intermittent fasting and creates a calorie deficit which is essential for burning off fat. So, nothing new there.
These are all interesting ideas for articles for another time but I appreciate that your time is precious so, let’s get back onto Exercise Snacking.
With all our busy modern lives we often find it very difficult to exercise. Especially when official guidelines tell us that we should be doing 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week. Which can be broken down into 30-minute blocks, five times per week.
But one statistic that really hit me hard was that it is thought that 41% of middle-aged adults (40 to 60) do less that ten minutes brisk walking per month.
Not per week but per month.
This shocked me as I never thought a large group of people wouldn’t be able to walk for as little as ten minutes per month.
With this in mind, the team at “Trust me, I’m a Doctor” came up with an experiment where exercise was broken down into much smaller chunks that would take place during intervals throughout the day.
This they termed: Exercise Snacking.
The BBC teamed up with two sports scientists from Wolverhampton and Aston University along with a group of “guinea pigs” that all fit within the middle age bracket of 40 – 50 years old, they were largely inactive and would fit into the category of being at risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.
The group were asked to go to a lab on three separate occasions and were randomly assigned one of three different tasks.
- Sit for six hours and move as little as possible
- Carry out a 30 minutes brisk walk, 30 minutes after a breakfast
- Cary out six, five-minute walks (totalling 30 minutes) again starting 30 minutes after a breakfast
All of the group had a go at every one of these.
During this experiment, all the group were given a high fat, high carbohydrate breakfast and the same meal three hours later.
Blood was taken throughout the day to determine how much sugar and fat remained in their blood.
The reason for this being that as the person exercises, these levels should decrease as they are used for fuel by the body.
Continued high levels of both fats and sugars in the blood can cause the body harm and isn’t good.
It was found that if you sat and did nothing for six hours, the levels of fat and sugar didn’t really change at all. So, no surprises there.
On the days where the subjects completed 30 minutes of continuous activity it was found that fat and sugar levels dropped by around 40% compared to the inactive day.
What I found interesting is that when the subjects were tested on the day when the completed the Exercise Snacking, their fat and sugar levels decreased by almost the same amount as the continuous activity day.
This would suggest that there is no real difference between doing your exercise all in one go or breaking it down into smaller blocks.
If we look at this test critically, there are a lot of areas that would concern me. Just how scientific was this test?
However, there are other studies that are much more scientific that would seem to support this study by the BBC.
Is Exercise Snacking as good for you as continuous exercise? This study would suggest so.
I have a few thoughts on this.
What I Think
It concerns me that in the modern age, so many of us struggle to exercise for at least 30 minutes, five times a week. Whether we like or not, this is the world that we live in.
With the development of computers and transport, modern people find themselves in a much more sedentary state during the day. Not many of us mine coal, trawl for fish or are hill shepherds anymore and so, our activity levels have dropped.
Most people I have contact with are time poor. Meaning that there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get important things done, let alone to find time to go to the gym for an hour.
These results are a massive positive for those of us that I have just described. Instead of having to fight your way to the gym after work, you could quite as easily spend five minutes, six times a day doing exercise and have the same results.
You could do that in the work kitchen whilst you are waiting for the kettle to boil. It could also mean that you are hitting your activity goals by hoovering the house or taking the bins out.
I must throw one spanner into the works though. Please don’t think that just doing 30 minutes of exercise five times per week is going magically grow you that set of abs that you always wanted. That takes a long time, a calorie deficit and exercise.
I think that looking at activity in chunks rather than large blocks may be a game changer for some people.
For some, the thought of going to a gym or bootcamp is a massive turn-off. Instead what they could do is take the stairs instead of the lift or get off the bus a couple of stops earlier.
We have to change the way that we think about health. There is no “one size fits all” when we talk about individuals.
The sooner we come to terms with that, the sooner we’ll all feel a little less guilty about not making it to spin class.
If you have any questions about this or anything else I talk about in my blog then please get in touch. I would love to hear from you.
If you enjoyed this article (or not) then leave me a comment below, I would like to hear your thoughts.
Be all you can be