Exercise Snacks For Better Endurance


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Article by Dr. Beth Templin, PT, DPT, GCS

Photography by Dr. Beth Templin, PT, DPT, GCS

L​osing your endurance and your overall energy level is common as you age. We all experience some changes to our cardiovascular system, which are unavoidable. The important thing to remember is these losses are exacerbated more by lack of activity than by your true numerical age.

In the absence of medical conditions, the heart and lungs can easily meet the body’s day to day needs. What does change with age is the ability to adapt to increased stresses. As you get older, you don’t have as much reserve as you did when you were younger. What exactly does this mean?

As we age, the things that used to be easy for us to do are now harder, or we take longer to recover. Think about walking a mile, for example. Even if you were not a regular walker, you could walk a mile with minimal effort or recovery time in your 30's and 40's. As you age, this same task becomes more challenging without training. Even if you complete the task, it requires more effort and takes longer for you to recover from it. 

At the extreme, we see some people who can only do one “big” thing each day like go to church, OR get their hair cut OR go to the grocery store OR to a doctors appointment. They no longer have the ability to perform errands all day long because it takes too much of their effort and they need more time to recover.

So what can you do to help build your endurance back up? Exercise snacks, or short bouts of exercise, are a great way to start adding more activity into your day. The key is to break up long periods of sitting and inactivity with short bouts of movement. 

It does not matter so much what you choose to do, but rather the fact that you get up and move frequently throughout the day. Some great examples of what you can do at home without any special equipment are:

  • March in place for 5 minutes.
  • Stand up & sit down for 2 minutes.
  • Go up and down the stairs 2-3 times in a row.

The main goal is to get your heart rate up and break up long periods of sitting.  

Sitting is so relaxing, can it really be that bad for you? The answer is yes. Here’s what happens when you spend too much time sitting:

  • Your blood flow slows down, allowing fatty acids to build up in the blood vessels, leading to heart disease.
  • You begin to develop insulin resistance, which can cause Type 2 Diabetes and obesity.
  • It places you at a higher risk of developing blood clots.
  • When you sit, your body’s ability to process fats is slowed, making you more likely to store the fat instead of burning it.
  • People who sit the most, have a greater risk of disease and death.

So come up with a plan to add several short 2-5 minute exercise snacks into your daily routine. Set an alarm on your phone to help keep you moving. Some smart watches even have a  setting to remind you to stand up and move every hour. Even if it's just getting up for a few minutes, it makes a big difference!

​❤ Dr. Beth

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