woman excersising by climbing stairs

Exercise snacking: Quick and easy way to a healthier heart

By now you’re probably aware that exercise is good for your heart.

But guess what? You’re busy! You’ve got a job, kids, friends, hobbies, obligations of all sorts, and a full workout will simply not fit into your packed schedule. Well, just because you can’t get to the gym regularly doesn’t mean you have to give up on your heart health, and one OSF HealthCare specialist has just the trick to help you make your heart healthier without sacrificing the other priorities on your calendar.

A great tip to try is “Exercise Snacking.” Below, Darrel Gumm, MD, one of the leading physicians for OSF HealthCare Cardiovascular Institute, shares a simple-to-do, snack-sized exercise regimen that just about anyone can fit into their day, no matter how busy their schedule.

Exercise Snacking

There’s no way around it: Exercise is a vital component of heart health. So what constitutes an appropriate exercise regimen to keep your ticker ticking? Guidelines say you should ideally get 30 to 40 minutes of “moderate to vigorous activity,” four or five times per week. A brisk walk works, or anything that elevates your heart rate somewhat.

man climbing stairs at workDr. Gumm, however, suggests “exercise snacking” for people who can’t block out that kind of time. Exercise snacking means doing small portions of exercise spread throughout the day.

“Getting in 10,000 steps every day or getting to the gym regularly is not possible for some people,” Dr. Gumm says. “What if I could give you a little tidbit where you could get some cardiovascular toning without all that exercise?”

Dr. Gumm’s prescription: climb three flights of stairs three times per day, three days a week.

It’s simple and quick, and so long as you can handle stairs with no risk to your health and safety, it has been shown to get results. A study by McMasters University showed improved fitness among a group that did this bit of exercise snacking for six weeks.

 “It’s really, really important to think about incorporating exercise into our daily routine. This is a great way to do it,” Dr. Gumm says in the video.

The stakes are high

Being physically active is one of the best things you can do to help prevent things like heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, anxiety and depression.

So, take your health in your own hands and take the stairs! Just a few flights of stairs, a few times a day, a few days a week – that’s just nine flights of stairs per week – can make a big impact, and maybe it will help give you some momentum to take on higher activity levels. If you have not exercised regularly in a while, you should speak with your doctor for safety’s sake before starting any new exercising regimen.

Other tips and recommendations

Remember, it’s not necessary to go to a professional gym or fitness center to get a workout, especially if you have concerns about COVID-19.

Chairs and the walls of your home can be used for body weight exercises. Resistance bands are also a simple thing to use for overall strength and building muscle mass. And you don’t need expensive dumbbells or workout equipment. Think about using what’s handy – large soup cans, gallon jugs filled with water. These can provide the resistance you need as you move your upper body.

If you do go to a gym, remember to wear a mask, stay physically distanced when possible and wipe down any equipment before and after you use it.

Last Updated: January 27, 2021

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About Author: Ken Harris

Ken Harris is the proudest father and was a writing coordinator for the Marketing & Communications division of OSF HealthCare.

He has a bachelor's in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and worked as a daily newspaper reporter for four years before leaving the field and eventually finding his way to OSF HealthCare.

In his free time, Ken likes reading, fly fishing, hanging out with his dog and generally pestering his lovely, patient wife.

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Categories: Diet & Exercise, Heart Health