Senior woman doing exercise snacks flexes her arms

How “Exercise Snacking” Is Revolutionizing Fitness For Seniors

Get fit & stay strong in “bite-size” 2 minute micro-workouts!

If you think “exercise snacking” is about tasty little treats—you’d be wrong. It’s actually a new approach to fitness that makes exercise much more accessible, especially for seniors. If you struggle to find the time to exercise, have low motivation or you’re body just isn’t up for longer workouts—exercise snacking can help you stay healthy, fit & strong in a way that works for you!

What is Exercise Snacking?

Exercise snacking refers to short amounts of physical activity performed multiple times throughout the day. It’s a realistic way to get closer to the 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week that’s recommended by the Department of Health & Human Services.

Unlike traditional exercise routines that often require a dedicated block of time, exercise snacking allows you to accumulate exercise in small segments. These “snacks” of activity can range from a few minutes to around ten minutes each, making it easier to fit exercise into a busy schedule.

The idea behind exercise snacking is to make physical activity more accessible and less daunting, particularly for those who may find it challenging to commit to longer exercise sessions. For older adults, this approach can be particularly beneficial as it accommodates varying energy levels, physical capabilities, and daily schedules​​​​.

Benefits of exercise snacking for older adults

  1. Improved Physical Health: Short bursts of activity can significantly contribute to overall fitness and health. Research has shown that exercise snacking can improve cardiovascular health, increase muscle strength, and enhance flexibility. These benefits are crucial for older adults in maintaining independence and reducing the risk of falls and injuries​​.
  2. Enhanced Mental Well-being: Physical activity is known to boost mental health by reducing stress, anxiety, and depression. Exercise snacking can provide regular mood lifts throughout the day, helping seniors stay positive and mentally engaged. The frequent breaks also offer mental refreshment, improving focus and cognitive function​​.
  3. Increased Accessibility and Adherence: One of the primary advantages of exercise snacking is its accessibility. Seniors can perform these short exercises at home, in the garden, or even while watching TV. This flexibility makes it easier to stick to a routine, as it eliminates the need for a gym membership or special equipment​​.
  4. Customization & Adaptability: Exercise snacking can be easily tailored to individual fitness levels and health conditions. Whether it’s a gentle stretch, a brisk walk, or a few minutes of strength training, activities can be adapted to meet the specific needs of each person, ensuring safety and effectiveness​​.

How to incorporate exercise snacking into daily life

The best part of exercise snacking is that it doesn’t require a complete overhaul of your routine! Here are some practical tips for older adults to get started:

  1. Set a Schedule: Plan your exercise snacks around your daily routine. Start by aiming for 3-5 minute sessions, 4-5 times a day. Use reminders, such as alarms or sticky notes, to prompt you to move at regular intervals.
  2. Start Small: Begin with simple activities that don’t require special equipment. Examples include standing up and sitting down from a chair, walking around the house, or doing light stretches. Gradually increase the intensity and variety of exercises as you become more comfortable​​.
  3. Incorporate Variety: To keep things interesting and work different muscle groups, mix up your activities. Include a combination of strength training, cardio, and flexibility exercises. For instance, you could do a few minutes of marching in place, followed by arm exercises with light weights, and end with gentle yoga stretches​​.
  4. Use Everyday Activities: Integrate exercise into your daily tasks. For example, do calf raises while brushing your teeth, stretch while waiting for the kettle to boil, or take the stairs instead of the elevator. These small changes can add up over time and contribute to your overall activity level​​.

Examples of exercise snacks for older adults

The great thing about exercise snacks is that anything that gets you moving counts! Mix and match from this list or create your own micro routines with other exercises and activities.

  • Chair Squats
  • Wall Push-Ups
  • Heel Raises
  • Single-Leg Stands
  • Step-Ups
  • Seated Forward Bend
  • Shoulder Rolls
  • Neck Stretches
  • Ankle Circles
  • Marching in Place
  • Toe Taps
  • Seated Jacks
  • Dancing
  • Walking
  • Stretching
  • Arm Circles
  • Leg Lifts
  • Seated Torso Twists
  • Side Leg Raises
  • Stair Climbing
  • Calf Stretches
  • Seated Knee Lifts
  • Seated Bicep Curls
  • Hip Marching
  • Wrist Flex and Extend
  • Seated Ankle Pumps
  • Seated Side Stretches
  • Towel Stretches
  • Seated Pelvic Tilts
  • Arm Raises
  • Seated Marching
  • Shoulder Blade Squeezes
  • Seated Toe Taps
  • Light Yoga Poses
  • Pelvic Floor Exercises
  • Light Resistance Band Exercises
  • Light Tai Chi Moves
  • Light Boxing Moves (shadow boxing)

There’s quite literally millions of exercises and activities you could do! If you need a little more inspiration on what to do—check out the sample schedule below.

Try this sample exercise snacking schedule for seniors:

Here’s what a day of exercise snacking could look like along with some videos to help you get started.

NOTE: Each video is part of a longer routine. Instead of completing the whole video, simply stop after you’ve reached the length of your pre-determined “exercise snack”—whether that’s at the 2, 3, 5, or 10 minute mark.

Morning Exercise Snack (After Breakfast)

  • A few minutes of gentle stretching (e.g. reaching for the sky, side stretches)
  • A few minutes of light cardio (e.g. marching in place or a short walk around the house)

Follow along with the 1st few minutes of this “Energy Boosting Morning Stretches” class:

Buy the full “7 Days of Energy Boosting Morning Stretches” program here.

Follow along with the 1st few minutes of this “Chair-Assisted Dance Cardio” class:

Buy the full “5 Days of Chair-Assisted Dance Cardio” program here.

Mid-Morning Exercise Snack

  • A few minutes of strength exercises (e.g. chair squats, wall push-ups)
  • A few minutes of balance exercises (e.g. standing on one foot, heel-to-toe walking)

Follow along with the 1st few minutes of this “Full Body Fitness & Strength For 55+” class:

Buy the full “Full Body Fitness & Strength For 55+” program here.

Follow along with the 1st few minutes of this “Balance & Coordination Booster” class:

Buy the full “Balance & Coordination Booster” program here.

Afternoon Exercise Snack (After Lunch)

  • A few minutes of flexibility exercises (e.g. seated forward bends, shoulder rolls, yoga)
  • A few minutes of light cardio (e.g. walking up & down the stairs, dancing to a favorite song, chair cardio)

Follow along with the 1st few minutes of this “Joyful Chair Yoga” class:

Buy the full “Joyful Chair Yoga” program here.

Follow along with the 1st few minutes of this “Gentle Chair Cardio” class:

Buy the full “Gentle Chair Cardio – Volume 1” program here.

Evening Exercise Snack (Before Dinner)

  • A few minutes of strength exercises (e.g. bicep curls with light weights, leg lifts)
  • A few minutes of relaxation exercises (e.g. deep breathing, seated meditation, restoration yoga)

Follow along with the 1st few minutes of this “Improve Your Functional Strength” class:

Buy the full “Improve Your Functional Strength” program here.

Follow along with the 1st few minutes of this “Restorative Yoga For Beginners” class:

Buy the full “Restorative Yoga For Beginners” program here.

Conclusion

Exercise snacking is a great way for seniors to get active in a very achievable way. By breaking down exercise into manageable chunks, you can improve your physical health, boost mental well-being, and stay active throughout the day.