Small Moves, Big Impact: Embracing Exercise Bursts


As a physician, I see firsthand the impacts of sedentary lifestyles on overall health. Many of my patients struggle with finding time for exercise amidst their busy schedules, leading to increased risk for many health issues, including obesity, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes. Today, I want to introduce you to a concept that can help mitigate these risks: exercise bursts. 

What are Exercise Bursts?

Exercise bursts are short bursts of physical activity that can be done throughout the day, anywhere, anytime. You don’t even need to change your clothes. These mini-workouts typically last anywhere from one to ten minutes and can be easily incorporated into daily routines. The idea is to break up long periods of inactivity with these brief, yet effective, bouts of movement.  

Why are Exercise Bursts Beneficial?

Improved Blood Sugar Control

One of the most significant benefits of exercise bursts is their ability to help regulate blood sugar levels. Studies have shown that frequent, short periods of exercise can improve insulin sensitivity and reduce blood glucose levels. For individuals with or at risk for type 2 diabetes, this can be a crucial tool in managing their condition. 

Combatting Sedentary Lifestyle

Many of us spend a large portion of our day sitting—whether at a desk, in a car, or on the couch. Prolonged sitting has been linked to various health problems, including obesity, cardiovascular disease, and even certain cancers. Incorporating exercise snacks into your day can help break up these long periods of inactivity, promoting better overall health. 

Enhanced Mental Health

Exercise has long been known to boost mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression. Exercise bursts offer regular opportunities to release endorphins, which can help improve your mental well-being throughout the day. 

Increased Energy and Productivity

Short bursts of exercise can help combat fatigue and increase energy levels. This can lead to improved focus and productivity, making it easier to stay on task and complete daily activities. 

How to Incorporate Exercise Bursts into Your Day

Integrating exercise bursts into your routine is easier than you might think.  Use a timer or an app to remind you to take an exercise break every hour. Even just a minute or two of movement can make a difference. 

Here are a few simple ideas to get you started: 

  • Desk Exercises: If you work at a desk, try incorporating exercises like seated leg lifts, chair squats, or desk push-ups. 
  • Walking Meetings: Instead of sitting in a conference room, suggest walking meetings. This not only gets you moving but can also stimulate more creative thinking. 
  • Stair Climbing: Take the stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible. Climbing stairs is a great way to get your heart rate up quickly. 
  • Stretching: Stand up and stretch your body, focusing on areas that tend to get tight from prolonged sitting, such as your neck, shoulders, and back. 
  • Household Chores: Activities like vacuuming, sweeping, or even gardening can serve as effective exercise snacks. 
  • Hourly Movement Breaks: Try getting up every hour to do 10 bodyweight squats, 10 wall push-ups and/or 10 jumping jacks. 
  • Yoga: Choose a pose that’s challenging but doesn’t hurt — like a plank, tree pose, or triangle pose — and hold it for about a minute if you can. Remember to breathe! 


Brief exercise bursts are a simple yet powerful way to improve your health and well-being. By incorporating these short bursts of activity into your daily routine, you can lower your blood sugar levels, combat the effects of a sedentary lifestyle, and enhance your overall physical and mental health. Remember, every little bit of movement counts, so start small and gradually increase the frequency and intensity of exercise. Your body and mind will thank you!