“I don’t have time” is probably one of the most common excuses people use for skipping their exercise session. This time of year as we race to the finish line before the Christmas and New Year’s festivities begin everyone is feeling a little extra time-poor.

But could exercise ‘snacks’ be the answer for keeping fit, losing bodyweight and keeping healthy?

Exercise ‘Snacks’ are changing the way people workout

Whether your goal is weight loss, to increase muscle size, to maintain your liposuction results or looking after your heart health, we all know consistent physical activity is key to achieving these goals. Yet, getting to the gym for 45 minutes of resistance exercises or going for an hour-long run simply isn’t feasible every day in our busy schedules.

But what if you could lose weight and gain fitness by doing just a snack-sized portion of exercise on the days you simply can’t do your usual treadmill run or boxing class?

Exercise snacking refers to going just 20 seconds of exercise several times a day and research shows it can lead to measurable health and fitness benefits.

Yes, you heard right.

Simply sprinting up a few flights of stairs during your lunch break, or doing a set of lunges followed push-ups a few times a day could actually improve your health. Now, you might not feel so guilty if you couldn’t squeeze in your evening high-intensity interval training (HIIT) session after a long day at the office.

Study finds 20-second exercise snacking improves aerobic fitness

12 participants leading sedentary lifestyles participated in a 6-week study published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism.

They were asked to sprint up a 60-step flight of stairs which took about 20 seconds, three times a day. They had a 1-4 hour break between each 20-second exercise ‘snack’ – plenty of time to catch your breath!

Before each set, they were giving a warm-up that consisted of five lunges on each leg, 10 jumping Jacks and 10 air squats before a 1-minute walking cool down.

After just six weeks, the participants had a significant 5 percent increase in their aerobic fitness measures when compared to a control group of 12 sedentary individuals.

Short bursts of exercise may effectively reduce blood sugar levels

An earlier study also found health benefits in short bursts of physical activity (around 12 minutes each). Published in the Diabetologia journal, the study found participating in three short exercise sessions was more effective in reducing blood sugar levels than one 30-minute workout.

Not only is it more time-efficient, but the results suggest this can also can help exercisers to improve their glycaemic control in people with blood sugar dysregulation or insulin resistance.

As we head into one of the busiest times of the year, maybe you don’t have an extra hour to get to your usual gym weight training session. But, I bet throughout your day you could find two or three 15-minute gaps to squeeze in a bit of HIIT exercise.

Try running up and down your office stairs. Grab a colleague and go into the park for a few sets of resistance exercises or pack a skipping rope in your bag for a pre-lunch jump.

You don’t need a whole lot of commitment to enjoy the benefits of exercise snacking. Just get moving, get your heart rate up and take part in these effective workouts.