I don’t have time for a long gym session. I don’t really want to go for a long gym session. Does that mean I just have to accept that I’ll never be able to wear my “pre-kids” jeans ever again or can’t improve my cardiovascular health? NOPE! My solution – exercise snacking!
As a college student, I went to the gym almost daily. As a newlywed, my husband and I went to the gym almost daily. As a stay-at-home mother of three-year-old and four-year-old boys, I never go to the gym.
I have my reasons why.
I simply don’t have time. “But you could get up early and go.” Stop it. Do you have children? My children wake up roughly around 7:30 am. To get a gym session in, I would have to leave my house by 4:40 am. I would arrive at the gym around 5 am because our gym is 20 minutes away from our house. If I worked out for two hours, I would leave by 7 to arrive back home at 7:20 am. That gives me 10 minutes to shower if my boys don’t wake up any earlier than 7:30 am. If you have toddlers, you know that they sometimes rise with the sun in the summer, so that’s definitely before 7:30 am.
“You don’t have to work out for 2 hours.” True. But, if I drive 20 minutes to the gym and 20 minutes back, I’m not going to spend more time or equal time in my car than in the gym.
Another reason why I don’t go to the gym in the morning is because that is “my time.” Ever since my boys were much smaller, I have woken up before them. That is my time to drink coffee (warm coffee- insert mommy giggle). That is also my time to read my Bible, talk to God, and prepare for whatever is on the schedule for that day. This means that I would need to leave my house even earlier than 4:40 am.
“You could go to the gym in the evening.” True. But, in my experience, the gyms are much more crowded in the evening, which could make my trip last even longer. Plus, this is when my husband is now off work, and it’s our time to be a family. Once the boys go to bed, that is my time to spend with my husband.
“You could take your children to the gym daycare.” True, if our gym had one.
Exercise snacking is a solution that has worked for me. “Exercise snacking involves engaging in short bursts of exercise multiple times throughout your day, rather than spending an hour or two at the gym all at once. The idea is to be as active as possible during the day. Get up from your desk more if you work in an office, take the stairs, or park further away from the entrance. Find excuses for movement because it all counts.”
I spoke with a friend from Indiana State University, Jana Shipman CPT, an Online Fitness Coach with Fitness Nutrition Growth. She said,
“Any movement is better than no movement! If you don’t have time for a long workout, then you absolutely could break that workout down to small segments.”
Here are some of my favorite ways to spread exercise throughout my day:
During nap time/quiet time, I will do a workout video. I have used the Beachbody app (yearly fee) and the FitOn app (free). Beachbody is really good for programs, and FitOn is really good for diverse workout types and lengths of videos. If I only have time for a 15-minute HIIT workout, then FitOn is the app I’d go to. They have all kinds of workouts from stretching to HIIT to weight training to kickboxing. You can also search by time frame. There are videos ranging from 5 minutes to 45+ minutes.
Instagram fitness influencers post workouts that you can do in a smaller time frame and still have an effective workout. Some of my favorites to follow are: Morgan Willett (@morganleighwillet or @movelikemorgan), Andrea Allen (@deliciouslyfitnhealthy), Megan Seibolt (@meganseibolt), Gabby Dawn Allen (@gabbydawnallen)
You can do simple yet effective movements while you do household chores.
- Calf raises while you do dishes
- Squats while you fold or hang up laundry
- Arm circles while you wait for the pancake to be ready to flip
If your children are like mine, they constantly want to go to and from the park during the summer. This is a great way to get some movement. Walk, run, and skip with them. Play with them at the park.
On rainy days that have you stuck inside, wear ankle weights as you chase your toddler around your house.
If you work in an office, here are some solutions for you:
- Put resistance bands in your bag or desk for when you have a spare moment.
- Reverse squats, a sit-to-stand motion.
- Desk push-ups a standing push-up motion against a wall or other surface like your desk.
- A standing desk
- An exercise ball to sit on instead of an office chair
- Park farther from the door
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator
Jana suggested structuring your exercise snacking throughout the day. She said, “Start with dynamic stretching, add strength exercises, then cardio, and end with static stretching.”
That could look something like this: begin your morning with dynamic stretches (FitOn has great stretching videos), body weight lifting while you do chores or do a short video during nap time or playtime, cardio on your way to the park, and while you’re at the park, then static stretches to end your evening.
Jana spoke about your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) if weight loss is your goal. She said, “This is the amount of calories your body burns when performing its functions and physical movements such as exercise and all other daily activities. Any consistent extra daily movement will increase your TDEE.”
Even if weight loss isn’t a goal, exercise should still be worked into your daily schedule somewhere. “Exercise is a powerful medicine. Exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Exercise prevents health problems, builds strength, boosts energy, and can help you reduce stress – which is crucial for motherhood.” (And the crowd said, “AMEN!”)
As a stay-at-home mom and when I was a working mom, I have always felt better when I moved my body throughout the day. My stress levels are down, and my energy is up. If an extended gym session isn’t going to fit into your season of life right now, I hope that you feel encouraged to use exercise snacking to design what will fit into your season of life right now.