I tried TikTok's viral exercise snacking trend - and had no idea it'd be the answer to my fitness slump

Ever heard of it?

Exercise snacking: Dionne Brighton working out in the park
(Image credit: Dionne Brighton)

When I first heard about exercise snacking, I was well up for a mid-treadmill cookie break or a cheeky Naked bar on the step machine. But - yep, you guessed it - exercise snacking involves no actual snacks. Rather, it's a new approach to movement which encourages small, manageable bursts of exercise throughout your day. 

#Exercisesnacking has over 550k views on TikTok, and while some videos are about actual pre and post-gym snacks, I was most interested in the exercise snacking workout. Hungry for a new workout or way of moving? "Exercise snacking is a concept which incorporates short, frequent bouts of exercise throughout the day," explains Freelectics trainer David Wiener. And the point? "The idea is that these short bursts of activity add up, helping you to meet your activity and exercise goals," he explains - particularly beneficial if you simply don't have time for a longer workout.

So, is there any research to back the concept? "Some studies into exercise snacking have found it can benefit cardiovascular health," Weiner tells me. "There are also studies to show exercise snacking can help to improve sensitivity to insulin and help manage blood sugar, as well as improve mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression," he continues. 

Keep scrolling to find out how to exercise snacking works, the benefits and if two weeks of snacking got me out of my fitness slump. Don't miss our review of the viral walking desk plus explainers on the best time to exercise and top exercise motivation tips, while you're here. 

Your guide to exercise snacking

What is exercise snacking?

Exercise snacking differs from many other workout plans. It can be done as a home workout and can follow whatever format you enjoy most - be that low-impact, high intensity, or weight-lifting exercises. In short, it's whatever short workout you fancy. "They do differ from longer, more structured workouts which may be based on heart rate zones, or body parts, but however you fit exercise into your day, it all counts," says Weiner.

While you could just opt for your favourites, it's worth also noting that because you're only doing each workout for a short amount of time, it won't feel as daunting doing the workouts you don't love but know will benefit you. 

Top tip: "To incorporate exercise snacking into your daily routine, simply make sure your body is moving whenever you get the chance," Wiener suggests. This could look like:

  • A short walk around the office 
  • A stroll around your house during a break
  • Doing a few bodyweight exercises like squats while you wait for the kettle to boil
  • Taking the stairs instead of the lift.

5 benefits of exercise snacking

"Throughout the day, all movement counts, so exercise snacking, much like longer workouts, can offer a huge range of benefits. These include improving cardiovascular health, boosting energy levels and preventing inactivity," Weiner tells me. 

"A study published in the American Journal of Health Promotion in 2019 found that exercise snacking (in this case, three 10-minute bouts of brisk walking) improved blood pressure and arterial stiffness in sedentary adults," says Weiner. Not to mention, "a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology in 2018 found that short, intense bursts of cycling sprints were effective at burning calories and improving body composition which can help with weight management," the expert explains.

  • Boost energy levels
  • Improve cardiovascular health
  • Enhance fitness levels 
  • Contribute to a healthy lifestyle 
  • Prevents a sedentary lifestyle

Of course, any type of workout is likely to boost your mood and energy levels. As the trainer explains, "working out, even in small amounts is enough to trigger the release of endorphins." In turn, these can have beneficial effects on mood and stress management. "It can also help to regulate blood sugar levels," the trainer explains. 

I tried exercise snacking to get me out of my fitness slump - these are my thoughts

I'll be honest: I've never been great at sticking to a morning workout routine. Rather, I opt for sporadic yoga classes where teachers reassure me to only do what feels good for my body. I've taken that literally ever since, and found it an especially useful tool when it came to trying exercise snacking.

From day one, I did what felt good for my body. Although the experts suggest doing it for six to ten minutes multiple times a day, sometimes, if I felt so inclined, I might go for ten to fifteen minutes and feel even more proud of myself for actually sticking to it. 

Weiner backs up that snacking would have had these positive effects on me, and I'm not just imagining them. "Physical activity, even short bursts or snacks throughout the day, can be incredibly motivational. For one, the idea that exercise doesn't require a significant time investment can reduce perceived barriers to getting started, and you may be more likely to engage in short bursts of activity because they feel manageable." Which is precisely how I felt. Suddenly, I felt like I could get in all the workout exercises I had so long been planning, yoga classes and, in general, much healthier. 

But with all this motivation, I didn't just want to stick to short bursts - rather, I wanted to finally get around to doing those Pilates workouts I said I would make time for. Catching up with personal trainer Weiner, it makes sense I feel this way. "Exercise snacking could also encourage consistent movement throughout the day. The more you integrate exercise into your routine, the easier it is to maintain motivation and stay on track with your fitness goals. These short bursts also provide instant gratification and immediate benefits like boosted energy, improved mood, and enhanced alertness," he explains. 

My final verdict? Exercise snacking absolutely did get me out of my fitness rut, and it's a FitTok trend I'm happy I got behind. Why I'm still undecided is because, with all this increased motivation, I wanted to do longer workouts and even some weight training, which isn't the point of the trend. But without exercise snacking, I never would've gotten to that point in the first place. 

Relate to having no time to exercise? Then I would definitely recommend trying exercise snacking to everyone I know. I'll certainly be keeping it in my daily routine. Move it or lose it as they say.

Dionne Brighton

Dionne Brighton is a writer at Marie Claire UK, specialising in all things shopping, beauty and fashion. Born and raised in North London, she studied Literature at the University of East Anglia before taking the leap into journalism. These days, you can find her testing out the latest TikTok beauty trends or finding out what the next full Moon means.