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An ‘exercise snack’?

Exercise consistently crops up as a key intervention to keep our bodies and brains functioning well.

There is a growing body of evidence that exercise can maintain or improve memory and thinking. But it is much easier to flop on the couch…. or take the car rather than walk to the corner shop. In fact, just 6% of Australians aged 50 and over meet current guidelines for strength-based exercise.

Dr Jackson Fyfe and a research team at Australia’s Deakin University’s Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition (IPAN), has developed a new approach to exercise that could revolutionise the way older Australians exercise and improve their sense of wellbeing. They found “exercise snacking” – short bursts of strength training done at home – could be enough to maintain movement and enhance quality of life.

What are exercise snacks?

The exercise ‘snacks’ consist of five different exercises such as single-leg knee bends or coming to stand from a chair with no arms. Exercises are performed continuously for one minute, with a one-minute passive recovery break in-between.

The Deakin research found, by breaking down exercise routines to simple, bite-size intervals of movements using your own body weight as resistance, people were more likely to stick to their programs, gained confidence in doing new movements, and felt it was having a positive impact on their health.

Thirty-eight people aged between 65 and 80 years participated in this four-week study.

“Between 81 and 97 per cent of our participants stuck to their routines over the four weeks and 82 per cent also flagged they planned to continue exercising once the study was over,” said Dr Jackson Fyfe, Deakin University.

Another study of exercise snacking in the UK found similar results. Twenty-one frail people aged over 65 with mild cognitive impairment were given a 28 day, twice daily set of exercise snacks. The aim was to complete as many repetitions of the exercise as they could in one minute. Participants in both studies found this form of exercise not only acceptable, but enjoyable!

Both studies focused on strengthening lower body muscles, which are most susceptible to age-related decline of muscle mass and strength. An added bonus was that exercises targeting the lower limbs also help with balance.

“These findings show it’s never too late to start exercising and that even small amounts of regular exercise can create positive results,” said Dr Fyfe.

Please note:

  • Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program.
  • Your GP can refer you to a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist to help you on your way.


Fyfe, J.J., Dalla Via, J., Jansons, P. et al. Feasibility and acceptability of a remotely delivered, home-based, pragmatic resistance ‘exercise snacking’ intervention in community-dwelling older adults: a pilot randomised controlled trial. BMC Geriatr 22, 521 (2022).

Western, M.J., Welsh, T., Keen, K. et al. Exercise snacking to improve physical function in pre-frail older adult memory clinic patients: a 28-day pilot study. BMC Geriatr 23, 471 (2023).


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