What Is A Movement Snack?

A man takes a break to stretch on his balcony.

The “movement snack” can be anything– a brief stretch, a dance break, a walk around the building– whatever feels best! Photo by Scott Broome on Unsplash.

New Year, New Me?

It’s January, a month now famous for grand but short-lived change. Even well-meaning New Year’s resolutions tend to come pre-packaged with an inhuman rigidity that leads to feeling shame, resentment, and frustration, and eventually, giving up on the goal entirely. Much like Times Square’s New Year’s Eve party, the ball is dropped!

My philosophy for embracing the New Year is one of ease and moderation. Like all things worth having, change is best acquired slowly, intentionally, and with plenty of grace. After all, human psychology dictates that drastic, quick-fix overhauls in lifestyle usually lead to equally quick and drastic failures.

So, in the spirit of healthy, measured, and realistic goal-setting, I’m here to talk about the “movement snack.”

Fitness In A Flash: The Movement Snack

The “movement snack” is a recent cultural adage and a two-prong challenge against the norm.

The first prong: a vocabulary change. Western fitness culture champions “exercise” over “movement.” I believe making this shift in language is important. If you’re like me, hearing the words “exercise” or “workout” instantly evokes the feelings of sweat-damp gym equipment, cold fluorescents, and heaving lungs— I don’t know how you feel about sweat and pain, but none of those associations are pleasant enough to keep me feeling motivated for the long haul. However, “movement” is universal, connective, and significantly less pressurized a term. In the words of Frank Forencich of The American Institute of Stress (AIS), “this distinction [in language] is crucial because it draws us back into our bodies and puts us back into connection with our animal nature.” He adds that “when we emphasize movement, we enter into a world of engagement, participation and even intimacy [whereas] exercise gives us sets, reps and mileage…” Additionally, “movement gives us powerful experiences that [connect] us to our roots.”

The second prong: a time change. When people make plans to exercise, they often make unrealistic time commitments for where they’re at physically. In folly, the exercise novice will declare, “I’m going to work out for an hour a day, five days a week, for a year.” This mantra and its variations are the precise ingredients of goal burnout. Instead of marrying oneself to an apathetic and miserable routine, keeping present and focused on getting enough daily movement is where I believe our focus should be. For practical reasons too! The reality is that you don’t need to suffer through hours and hours of workouts in order to see positive changes in your health and well-being. Research shows that “bite-sized spurts of exercise throughout the day” (hence ‘snacks’) can be “just as effective as lengthy sweat banquets.”

There are loads of other benefits to the short movement break too! They have been shown to lessen and even ward off chronic pain, increase joint health, strengthen connective tissues, mitigate stress, prevent muscle atrophy/loss, and facilitate clearer thinking.

Movement Snack Ideas

According to Jenn Lea, performance coach at Human Performance Institute, “[a movement snack] can be as little as 30 seconds sprinting up a flight of stairs or it could be as long as 10 minutes walking around your block.” A good example of an effective movement snack took place in a recent Canadian study when test participants were tasked with running up three flights of stairs three times a day. After only a month and a half of these runs, the data showed that they’d “increased their aerobic fitness by about 5%.”

With that in mind, I’ve put together a list of potential movement snacks (of various intensities) that you could potentially incorporate into your daily routine.

  • Stand and assess what’s tight or sore in your body. Gently stretch, roll, or knead it until loose.
  • Pace. This is especially feasible if you spend a lot of your workday talking on a cell phone. Walk and talk!
  • Commit yourself to take the stairs instead of taking the elevator. If the option is presented and you’re able, give your body the chance to lift itself.
  • Invest in learning a few yoga poses to cycle through as you watch your favorite shows. The TV isn’t going anywhere, and the living room floor is a great spot for an impromptu asana.
  • Try parking your car further away from the entrance of your workplace, grocery store, gym, school, or wherever else you need to be. The extra minutes spent walking in and out will add up.
  • If you work at a desk, use it to your advantage. You can easily modify planks and pushups by using the desk’s edge. Doing either of those for just thirty seconds is plenty!
  • Fidget! Whether you do it consciously or unconsciously, the human body was not made to hold the same position for hours on end. Watch your clock and commit to repositioning yourself at least a little bit every half hour to every hour or so.
  • Turn on a song you love and simply allow your body to move with the music. You don’t need to be a dancer to dance. The more ridiculous and fun, the better!

With all that said, if you make any exercise-based resolutions this year, I think they should be fun and low-pressure. After all, the easily-implemented changes make for the stickiest habits. So take a short break from being sedentary! Have a snack!

If you’re interested in reading more about cultivating a lifestyle of healthy movement, read our article on Japanese vs. American wellness culture here, in which I discuss asa taisou, the Japanese practice of morning stretching that often takes place on the go or at the workplace. I even included a video if you’re interested in seeing the practice in motion.


We hope that this information on the movement snack was useful to you!

Empower Brokerage is dedicated to helping you make informed decisions about your health and finances. Whether it’s through webinar training, one-on-one calls, seminars, or marketing plans, we want you to be successful!

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