Skip to main content

Exercise snacks are the quick, effective workouts everyone can (and should) do

Healthy habits like mini workouts called 'exercise snacks' have numerous health benefits. Check them out!

Nike trainer Joe Holder performing an ab crunch in a boxing ring.
Exercise Snacks Instagram

Regular exercise is essential for maintaining good health and preventing many chronic diseases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, physical activity can reduce the risk of developing conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer. Exercise can also help manage chronic health conditions like high blood pressure and osteoarthritis.

Despite these well-known benefits, many people need help incorporating exercise into their busy lives. Finding the time to prioritize training can be challenging between work, family responsibilities, and other commitments. Additionally, many individuals may feel overwhelmed or intimidated by starting an exercise program, leading to inactivity and a sedentary lifestyle. This can create more frustration and even less motivation

However, the reality is that even small amounts of exercise can have significant health benefits. Research has shown that even short bouts of daily activity can improve cardiovascular health, reduce the risk of chronic diseases, and improve overall fitness levels. This is where the concept of exercise snacks comes into play, as trademarked by Nike Master trainer Joe Holder. It offers a way for individuals to fit physical activity into their busy lives in a practical and achievable way.

Nike Master Trainer Joe Holder

Joe Holder is a certified personal trainer and performance coach with over 10 years of experience in the fitness industry. He is also a nutrition expert and holistic wellness coach, profoundly understanding the connection between physical activity, nutrition, and overall well-being. Holder’s approach to fitness emphasizes the importance of making exercise accessible and achievable for everyone, regardless of their fitness level or schedule constraints.

According to Holder, “exercise snacks” are short, intense workouts designed to be done in a limited amount of time, making them easy to fit into a busy day. As he explains on, exercise snacking is “a process of breaking up exercise into intermittent movement breaks.” The idea is to move more frequently throughout the day rather than relying solely on longer workouts to achieve fitness goals. This approach is based on the understanding that a sedentary lifestyle can significantly negatively impact our health, and incorporating more movement into our daily routine can help mitigate these risks.

Nike Master Trainer Joe Holder outside on a basketball court.
Exercise Snacks Instagram

What are exercise snacks?

Exercise snacks can take many forms, from quick cardio bursts to targeted strength training exercises. Examples include total body workouts, mobility exercises, core-focused routines, and quick cardio sessions. According to the Well+Good interview with Holder, he suggests that “incorporating just five to ten minutes of movement into your day at regular intervals can make a significant difference in your overall health and fitness.”

Incorporating these movement periods throughout the day can be a great way to build fitness and self-confidence for those new to exercise. Simply walking first thing in the morning and again in the evening is excellent for newbies. More experienced individuals can use exercise snacks to maintain fitness and prevent boredom or burnout from longer workouts.

Holder came up with the idea of exercise snacks to help people incorporate fitness into their busy lives. He further explains, “Exercise snacks are short and intense workouts designed to be done in a limited amount of time, so you can easily fit them into your day.” You can do short workouts anytime, anywhere, making it easier to stay active. A key note is that you can also do them multiple times daily. 

Joe Holder sitting in a chair performing a workout in a living room.
Exercise Snacks Instagram

Benefits of exercise snacks

Exercise snacks can come in various forms, depending on your goals. Some examples include total body, mobility, cardio, and core snacks. Regardless of what type of routine you choose, they offer great health benefits.

  • Total body exercises work multiple muscle groups at once, making them an efficient way to get a full-body workout quickly. 
  • Mobility exercises focus on improving joint mobility and flexibility, which can help reduce the risk of injury. 
  • Cardio exercises, such as jumping jacks or running in place, can help increase your heart rate and improve cardiovascular health.
  • Core exercises like planks or situps can help strengthen your core muscles, improving posture and balance.

How-to: Exercise snacks and workout examples

Now that you understand the philosophy and are ready to try some out, let’s show you exactly what they look like on paper.

Total body – 10-minute H.I.I.T. workout

Set a timer for 10 minutes. Perform each exercise hard for 20 seconds. Rest for 20 seconds. Repeat until the timer goes off and you’ve completed all exercises.

For an additional challenge: Perform boxers bounce during rest periods to keep heart rate elevated

  • Shake it out – boxer’s bounce (warmup)
  • High-knees – x2
  • Side-to-side skaters – x2
  • Burpees – x2
  • Jumping jacks – x2
  • High jump knee tucks – x2
  • Mountain climbers – x2
  • 1-minute cool down – Perform breath work

Mobility – 5-minute morning tissue floss

A 5-minute morning routine combines dynamic movement and a little stretching to help you wake up. This is suitable for all skill levels! Perform each movement for 6 repetitions.

  • Shake it out – Focus on breath work (warmup)
  • Left hip opener pivots
  • Right hip opener pivots
  • Left high knee to side leg swing
  • Right high knee to side leg swing
  • Backbend to torso circle
  • Right and left chest opener – Bow draws
  • Flamingos – left and right leg
  • Shake it out (10 seconds)
  • Total body pivots

Core snack – mini four-exercise core workout

An icon in the fashion world, Naomi Campbell has been working with Holder for years. This is a routine he has performed with Campbell. If it works for her, it will surely work for you.

For each exercise, focus on slow and controlled movement. Hold each contracted position for 2 seconds.

  • Alternating plank “crunch” – 20 repetition
  • Alternating plank “cross crunch” – 20 repetitions
  • Alternating quadruped lift to back step – 15 repetitions
  • Alternating quadruped lift to back step to knee taps – 15 repetitions
Joe Holder running on an outdoor track, shirtless.
Exercise Snacks Instagram

Bite-sized fitness

Exercise doesn’t need to be overcomplicated or over 90 minutes in order to be effective in one’s life. These exercise snacks can be completed in mere minutes, and when done on a consistent basis, will pay dividends in the long run. As Holder likes to say, “Make movement a movement,” and we agree. Our bodies are made for movement, so let’s get them moving while having fun at the same time with mini snack-like bouts of fitness.

Editors' Recommendations

Jeff Turbett
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Jeff Turbett is a health and wellness coach with over three years of experience transforming clients lives and physical…
Snow is falling: These 7 workouts will get you ready for skiing and snowboarding in no time
Toning up will prevent injuries. Trust us, we know
A man skis on a clear run, with mountains and trees behind him.

As winter approaches and the snow starts to fall, skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts eagerly await the chance to hit the slopes. But before you strap on your skis or snowboard, you've got to prepare your body for the physical demands of these exhilarating winter sports. Don't worry! We'll guide you through a comprehensive eight-week exercise plan with ski workouts designed to get you in peak condition for skiing and snowboarding.

Fitness goals of ski training
Skiing and snowboarding require a unique set of physical attributes, including strength, balance, and endurance. To ensure you have a safe and enjoyable experience on the mountain, let's delve into each of these fitness goals.
Increasing strength
Skiing and snowboarding rely heavily on leg and core strength. Building strength in these areas will help you maintain control and stability while navigating the slopes. That's why you need to incorporate exercises into your routine to target these muscle groups effectively.
Improving balance
Balance is a key component of these popular winter sports, as you'll constantly need to adjust your position to stay upright on varying terrains. Poor balance can result in more falls, possible injuries, and a pretty unpleasant time on the slopes. Balance-focused exercises will help you develop the stability required for success and safety before you head to the ski lifts.
Building endurance
A day on the slopes is not for the faint of heart. Endurance is crucial for enjoying a full weekend (or even a full day) of skiing or snowboarding without getting fatigued or feeling muscle weakness too quickly. There are excellent workouts that work well at enhancing your cardiovascular endurance, ensuring you have the stamina to make the most of your time on the mountain.

Read more
New study says this is the best time of day to exercise if you want to lose weight
We sure hope you're a morning person
man holding weights outside

If you're struggling to lose weight or sleep better, changing the time of day you work out might help. A new study published in Obesity found the optimal time to exercise, even if you sit all day.

In this article, we'll break down the study findings and explain why the recommended workout time benefits weight loss.

Read more
8 reasons why a rowing machine needs to be part of your workout routine
These are the benefits of rowing you need to know
Man using rowing machine for fitness.

Treadmills, ellipticals, and exercise bikes are often many people's go-tos when it comes to cardio equipment. While these machines can certainly be effective, what about the benefits of rowing? Rowing allows you to strengthen your upper body, especially your back, while still challenging your cardiovascular system.
If you’re feeling stuck in a rut with your current fitness routine or are interested in taking on the most efficient and effective ways to get in shape, keep reading for a list of the benefits of rowing. Even if you’ve been hesitant to give rowing a try, you may just find yourself rethinking your next workout and swapping your run or spin class for a workout on the rowing machine.

Benefits of rowing
The benefits of rowing are extensive, spanning the gamut from improving cardiovascular fitness to achieving better posture. Here are some of the primary health benefits of rowing.

Read more