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5 'Exercise Snacks' You Can Do for Heart Health

Get your blood flowing and give your heart a boost with these very quick fitness routines.

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Giselle Castro-Sloboda Fitness and Nutrition Writer
I'm a Fitness & Nutrition writer for CNET who enjoys reviewing the latest fitness gadgets, testing out activewear and sneakers, as well as debunking wellness myths. On my spare time I enjoy cooking new recipes, going for a scenic run, hitting the weight room, or binge-watching many TV shows at once. I am a former personal trainer and still enjoy learning and brushing up on my training knowledge from time to time. I've had my wellness and lifestyle content published in various online publications such as: Women's Health, Shape, Healthline, Popsugar and more.
Expertise Fitness and Wellness
Giselle Castro-Sloboda
4 min read
woman walking up stairs wearing heels and a purse

Taking the stairs is one easy way to sneak in an exercise snack throughout the day.

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Exercise snacks, or short bursts of vigorous exercise done intermittently throughout the day, could be the perfect antidote for those who either don't have the time for a full workout or those who simply don't like it. In fact, doing brief vigorous movements throughout the day can have the same benefits as a longer workout. 

Exercise snacks may also have some heart-health benefits. Research has shown that 1 or 2 minutes of vigorous exercise in intervals throughout the day can improve your heart health by boosting your cardiovascular fitness. Exercise snacks replicate the benefits of high-intensity interval training, but your rest times are longer. In other words, instead of exercising for 20 or 30 minutes, you can do these movements throughout the day as it fits your schedule. For example, if you take 15-minute breaks at work, you can squeeze in some movement during that time. 

A UK study found that those who participated in vigorous intermittent lifestyle physical activity (three bouts of 1 to 2 minutes of vigorous exercise daily) reduced their risk of cancer or other causes by 38% to 40%. It also found that participants reduced their risk of cardiovascular disease by 48% to 49%. Another study looked at healthy older adults and observed how exercise snacking improved their muscle function. As a result, their leg muscle power and size improved over the 28-day program. Therefore, you can get all the benefits of exercise snacking, regardless of your age or fitness level.

If you don't have time to follow an hour-long workout routine, try doing some exercise snacks so you can still benefit from the heart health benefits. Below are some ideas to get you started and are easy enough to do anywhere throughout the day. 

Read more: What Your Eyes Can See About the Rest of Your Health

Take the stairs

woman working out on stairs

Climb flights of stairs throughout the day to get the most out of exercise snacks for your heart health.

Getty Images/ Guido Mieth

If you live in an apartment building, have stairs in your home or if they're part of your commute, take advantage of them to get your heart rate up. Aim for vigorous stair climbing throughout the day when you have the time. One study showed improvement in patients with coronary artery disease by doing three rounds of climbing six flights of 12 stairs, with recovery periods of walking. The study compared how stair climbing and traditional moderate-intensity exercise affected participants' cardiorespiratory fitness. 

Researchers found that stair climbers had a higher heart rate percentage across a shorter exercise time during the first four weeks of supervised testing. Both groups continued their exercise routine for an additional eight weeks unsupervised and managed to maintain their heart rate level percentage. The difference was that the stair climbers continued to exercise for less time. If climbing the stairs is the most exercise you can do during the day, you might as well do that exercise intentionally. 

Go for a walk 

woman walking her dog

Going for a walk is a good way to get an exercise snack in during the day. Make sure to add some speed to your walk to get your heart pumping. 

Getty Images/ Luis Alvarez

Going for a brisk walk can keep your heart healthy. The Heart Foundation recommends aiming for 30 minutes of walking a day. Another way to approach your walking goal is to break it up 10 minutes at a time, three times daily, to reap the same benefits. Just make sure it's a moderate to vigorous effort so you'll get your heart rate up. 

Bodyweight exercises

Man doing bodyweight lunges

Getting up from your desk and doing just about any bodyweight exercise is another exercise snack that can get you stronger and fitter.

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If you work in an office or from home, chances are you spend a lot of time sitting. Taking the time to move, even if it's to get in some quick bodyweight exercise, can do wonders for your heart health. While taking breaks from your desk, set up an interval timer and play around with bodyweight squats, lunges, push-ups, jumping jacks, bear crawls, planks and more. 

Jump rope

woman jumping rope

Get back in touch with your inner child by jumping rope to improve your heart health.

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Sometimes getting in touch with your inner child is a helpful way to get motivated to exercise. Jumping rope is a fun way to get your heart rate up while improving your cardiovascular health in short periods. One idea suggested by Nike Master Trainer Joe Holder is to pick up a jump rope and jump for five rounds of 1 minute each, playing around either with the intensity or variety of jumping. The more you improve your cardio fitness, the more you can increase the time of your workout to keep yourself challenged. 

Do some chores 

man vacuuming carpet

Chores count as exercise snacks, so it's a good idea to keep your heart in top shape as well as your home.

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Believe it or not, you can get a good workout by doing some chores around your home. Whether that's gardening, vacuuming, cleaning or organizing your home, you can get the benefits of a workout while keeping your life in order. It goes to show you that you don't need a gym to get a workout in, especially when plenty of daily activities count and you may not realize it.  

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.