5 'Exercise Snacks' You Can Easily Perform for Heart Health

These easy "exercise snacks" can help get your blood pumping, improve cardiovascular fitness and provide the same benefits as a longer workout.

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
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Exercise snacks are short bursts of vigorous exercise lasting 1 minute or less done intermittently throughout the day. For those who either don't have the time of day to exercise or simply don't like long periods of physical activity, exercise snacks could be the perfect solution. In fact, brief, vigorous movements throughout the day can have the same benefits as a traditional, 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 (also known as HIIT workouts), 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 death from 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 examined healthy older adults and observed how exercise snacking improved their leg muscle power and size over the 28-day program. In other words, you can still 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 exercise snacks to reap the heart health benefits. Below are ideas to get you started that are easy enough to do anywhere throughout the day. 

Read more: How Healthy Is Your Heart? Find Out at Home Without Any Equipment

1. Take the stairs

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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 increase your heart rate. Aim for vigorous stair climbing throughout the day when you have the time. One study showed improvement in patients with coronary artery disease when they did 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 stair climbing and traditional moderate-intensity exercise 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. 

2. Go for a walk 

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

3. Body weight exercises

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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 body weight workouts, can do wonders for your heart health. While taking breaks from your desk, set up an interval timer and play around with body weight squats, lunges, push-ups, jumping jacks, bear crawls, planks and more. 

4. Jump rope

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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 of time. 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 your workout time to keep yourself challenged. 

5. Do some chores 

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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 drawers and cabinets, you can get the benefits of a workout while keeping your life in order. It goes to show that you don't need a gym to get a workout in, especially when plenty of everyday activities count as exercise 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.