'Can a 2-minute exercise burst really change your life? I tried it for a week.'

The barista is eyeing me curiously. Likely because I come to this cafe a few mornings a week – but this is the first time I’ve launched into some clearly-not-as-subtle-as-I’d-hoped fast feet while waiting for my latte.

I’m a few days into a week-long trial of ‘exercise snacks’, which involves weaving short bursts of activity throughout the day – from squats while you wait for the kettle to boil (one of my favourites) to a brisk lounge room walk while you leave that voice note. And while moments like the one at the cafe aren’t exactly this self-conscious girl’s dream, I’m already enjoying the fitness challenge. 

Read more: PT Sam Wood says there is a "magic pill" for fitness in your 40s.

Plus, as somebody who a) spends most of the day sitting at a home desk and b) whose workout motivation can be quick to waver, I’ve been wondering: could these short-but-sweet efforts be the ticket to scoring more regular daily movement?

Watch Booty Burn Trim by Peaches Pilates. Post continues after the video.

Video via Mamamia.

The science behind snacking.

You might’ve heard about exercise snacking before, so why try it now? Well, fresh science makes a compelling case.

A 2022 study by the University of Toronto suggests regularly interrupting periods of prolonged sitting with brief spells of activity – such as a two-minute walk or 15 bodyweight squats – may help us to maintain muscle mass and quality. Meanwhile, according to recent University of Sydney research, three or four one-minute bursts of vigorous activity each day is associated with increased longevity. Those scientists name check running for the bus, a power walk while doing errands and playing high-energy games with the kids – all things many of us naturally build into our lives anyway.


“The benefits of these small exercise bouts are likely to accumulate over time and lead to improvements in our overall health and physical function,” explains Dr Jackson Fyfe, a senior lecturer in strength and conditioning sciences at Deakin University. “We know that [periods] of physical activity as short as one minute can lead to health benefits if performed frequently.” Another major plus point of exercise snacks is they break up stretches of sedentary behaviour, he adds, which is considered a risk factor for chronic disease.

In December, Dr Fyfe’s team at Deakin unveiled a study that found daily exercise snacking can be a great way for people aged 65-plus to keep up physical movement and increase their quality of life. In this case, researchers quantified a snack as a routine of five different bodyweight moves (like single-leg knee bends) performed for one minute, with a minute-long recovery break in between. Not only were participants likely to stick to this bite-sized program, but they also enjoyed an uptick in fitness confidence and felt it was having a positive health impact.

“Many reported they liked the short duration of the sessions, which allowed them to be weaved into the daily routine,” says Dr Fyfe. “A key part of building consistent exercise routines is making it easier to get started. Convincing yourself to do something for 10 minutes is probably easier compared to something that takes an hour.”

Making them a routine.

Speaking of motivation, I found exercise snacking sometimes actually sparked me to carry on moving. One lunchtime, while doing side lunges during a TV ad break, I suddenly felt a burst of energy – so I threw on trainers and jumped on my exercise bike for my first class in weeks. It felt good to just go with the workout momentum before I could talk myself out of it.


I’ve also recently started using the Pomodoro technique (25 minutes of focus followed by a five-minute break) to boost my work productivity. The timer was a helpful nudge to fit a snack into those brief windows, plus the activity often put more fuel in my tank for the next work session. Rachel Ashton, lead trainer at Rumble Boxing, confirms: “It's well-known exercise can help improve mood, provide stress relief and boost endorphins, so ‘snacking’ will definitely help to fight fatigue.”

You could even try stacking snacks with other daily habits, tips Dr Fyfe – so incorporate one after, say, brushing your teeth or while hanging laundry. Another tip from me? Music. The Barbie soundtrack makes for a stellar kitchen dance playlist. 

“Park the car a little further away from work, get off the bus a stop earlier or take the stairs instead of the escalator,” says Ashton. “You could do a five-minute stretch when you wake up, which will make you feel amazing, or try some shadow boxing for a fun way to get your heart rate up quickly.” If lunges on the train platform feel too conspicuous (I feel you), she suggests step-ups or briskly pacing back and forth. Indeed, kerb step-ups while waiting for the bus are now a staple on my snack menu.

How do they stack up?

As for the overall role of exercise snacks in a training regimen, are they powerful enough to replace a typical workout? Or do they serve as more of a bonus add-on? Dr Fyfe tells me the scientific jury is still somewhat out.


“Research on exercise snacking is very new, so there is less available evidence for the long-term benefits compared to more traditional longer exercise approaches,” he explains. “We do know from other studies that even very short exercise bouts seem to reduce the risk of certain chronic diseases. My view is that exercise snacking is one tool that some may find more feasible and enjoyable than traditional approaches. At the very least, it could make the process of getting started with [movement] that little bit easier.”

Versatility is a huge part of snacking’s appeal, adds Ashton. “For some people, it’s the perfect way to start exercising if they’ve been sedentary for a while. For others, it’ll be an add-on to their regular workout habits.”

The exercise snack verdict. 

This week has well and truly converted me to the magic of exercise snacking – for my workout motivation, energy and, hopefully, my long-term health and wellbeing. I love the speedy endorphins boost and how doable the approach feels, too.

But I’ve also realised it’s about striking some sort of balance between using spare moments both for movement and for rest. Because let’s be honest: a two-minute wait for a coffee doesn’t need to be filled with fast feet or lunges, and I’m conscious of the guilt and pressure so many of us already feel to make every moment of our time ‘productive’.

So, sometimes you’ll find me using a work break to do a few air punches, squats or high knees. And others, I’ll be laughing at an Instagram meme, daydreaming or simply staring into space. Now, that’s a snack recipe I can stick to. Join me, will you?

Feature Image: Getty

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