How “Exercise Snacking” Can Help You Reach 150 Minutes of Movement a Week

Morsels of effort here and there are all you need to stay fit and extend your lifespan

A man runs along a canal in London. If you're having trouble making time for workouts during the week, consider "exercise snacking."
How much exercise do you need a week? The answer is surprisingly manageable.
Pietro Recchia/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty

The preposterous amount of money that Millennials spend on fitness is well-reported (over $125 a month, with some reports suggesting that the generation will spend more in their lifetime on gym memberships, activewear and connected fitness machines than on higher education). That’s saying something, considering how prohibitively expensive college has gotten in America.

But Millennials also tend to devote a ton of time to fitness. Think daily half-hour sessions on the Peloton, hour-long bootcamps booked through ClassPass or two-hour morning runs to train for a marathon. It can give the impression, considering that these escapades invariably make it onto the Instagram Story, or find their way into dinner party conversation, that the only way to exercise is the long way, the maximalist way.

Meanwhile, those who more or less move from the desk to the couch all day are left feeling lost and left behind. What chance do they have of starting (and keeping) an exercise routine, when real exercise apparently looks like that?

This is a misconception, though, and one particularly distorted by the influencer era. All power to those working out for an hour or more each day, but they aren’t merely “staying in shape” — they’re chasing gains in physical performance. It’s an important distinction. While their efforts may engender hopelessness in your current routine, you really ought to pay them no mind. (Unless, of course, you actually do find them inspiring.)

The truth is, in order to keep your crucial biometrics in the right range, improve your mood, sleep better and extend your lifespan, you don’t have to train like an Olympic hopeful. Exercise physiologists agree that you simply need to allot 150 minutes of exercise for yourself a week. That number was first identified in 2008, and confirmed again in 2018, in an exhaustive analysis conducted by the Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee.

Typically, medical professionals have suggested that we split those 150 minutes into five half-hour sessions throughout the week, leaving two days for the body to rest and recover. And of those 150 minutes, around half should be considered “vigorous,” defined as any activity that elevates your heart rate to 80-95% of its maximum beats per minute.

If that system works for you, fire away. But in recent years, researchers have championed different approaches, such as “fractionized exercise,” or “bite-size workouts,” a term an exercise scientist recently used in an interview with The New York Times. The gist? It doesn’t truly matter how you disperse those 150 minutes, as long as you’re reaching that number.

Let’s say you work at home, and one long class or run is unmanageable. You just can’t get away from the laptop for that long. You might consider getting out for a 10-minute walk after each meal. You could also plug in bodyweight workouts throughout the day (we actually designed a desk-side, workday workout during the height of the pandemic), or climb stairs near your house, or make time for lightly strenuous outdoor activities, like gardening.

If your brain insists on comparing these activities with the exploits of your fittest friends, then sure, you may not feel so great, but that’s missing the point entirely. The science is clear on this front — literally any sort of movement is better than the sedentary style too many of us have gotten comfortable with. Morsels of effort here and there are your best shot at reaching that magical number of 150 minutes.

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