PF Quick Hits: Snacking That's Actually Good For Your Health?
Plus how drinking enough water may slow down aging, and an update on Dry January.
When you think of healthy snacking, where does your mind go?
Maybe a nice mix of unsalted nuts? An apple or a banana? Or the tried and true combination of peanut butter on celery?
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What about…climbing stairs?
According to a new study, there’s another healthy form of snacking: exercise “snacks.” Stair climbing serves as the prime example. A recent Washington Post article distilled the study:
New research shows exercise “snacks,” which consist of brief spurts of exertion spread throughout the day, can improve metabolic health, raise endurance and stave off some of the undesirable changes in our muscles that otherwise occur when we sit too long.
The article cites a few additional studies that point to exercise snacking as a time-efficient way to work out. For example, a 2019 study found students who walked up and down three flights of stairs three times a day for six weeks “gained significant amounts of aerobic fitness and leg strength,” despite this being their only exercise.
Another study compared the effects of a single, ten-minute cycling interval with short, minute-long bursts of cycling every few hours. Both approaches resulted in a similar gain in fitness.
So what do we make of all this? I have a few takeaways.
First, exercise snacks could be a good thing to work into your daily routine, especially if you work in a job where you’re seated for long periods of time.
I love the stair climbing concept—this is something I’ve incorporated over the years at work, especially in the days before hybrid office arrangements. Of course, it helps if you work in a tall building. Several years ago, I was in the habit of climbing 10-15 flights twice a day when in the office. This is even more fun when you get your colleagues involved, though Pete Campbell from Mad Men might not agree.
I also think exercise snacks could be an effective entry to fitness if you’re out of shape. For some people, the concept of breaking up exercise throughout the day might have a lower barrier to entry and seem more achievable.
That said, the study comparing the ten-minute cycling interval with short burst of cycling gives me pause. In reading the details of the study, the participants did 18 training sessions over six weeks. That’s not a lot of training, and while both a 10-minute cycling interval or several intense bursts of cycling would be good for your health, that sort of exercise is not enough for a complete fitness routine.
Though the Washington Post proclaims “These 2-minute exercise bursts may be better than your regular workout,” I don’t think it’s wise to rely on exercise snacks to make up your entire fitness regimen, which is what the headline implies.
So by all means, do some jumping jacks, squats, push-ups or stair climbing throughout the day—but do something else, too. Just as healthy snacking can supplement a balanced diet, exercise snacking can supplement a healthy fitness routine.
These studies on drinking water are making me thirsty…
Back in a November edition of Quick Hits, I shared a study suggesting eight glasses of water a day might be overdoing it. The study seemed light on specifics, with one of the co-authors, a professor named John Speakman, saying there was no “one-size-fits-all” guidance for water consumption. Allow myself to quote myself, from Quick Hits:
Come on John, I want specifics! I think it’s time for another study.
Good news, self: there’s been another study on water consumption habits. From CNN:
You may know that being adequately hydrated is important for day-to-day bodily functions such as regulating temperature and maintaining skin health.
But drinking enough water is also associated with a significantly lower risk of developing chronic diseases, a lower risk of dying early or lower risk of being biologically older than your chronological age, according to a National Institutes of Health study published Monday in the journal eBioMedicine.
The study is quite dense, and the sort of thing we’d dive into on the podcast, but I’ll save you the specifics here, as the quote from CNN does a good job of describing the study and you probably don’t want to read four paragraphs of me trying to explain what the heck “serum sodium” is and why it’s important to your body.
Hilariously, the CNN article also directly contradicts John Speakman’s study, referencing the National Academy of Medicine’s daily recommendations for water intake: 9 cups for women and 12 1/2 cups for men.
That definitely sounds like “one-size-fits-all” guidance to me. And yeah, I think I’ll keep drinking as much water as I can.
Seeing as we’re basically halfway through Dry January,and I thought we’d provide updates on our attempt to nix alcohol for the entire month. If you’re trying Dry January, let us know how it’s coming in the comments.
From: I'm actually enjoying not drinking, which is not something I expected. I'm getting great sleep without my occasional wine nightcap, and waking up refreshed and energized. I'm also having fun trying some different non-alcoholic beverages, some of which I've reviewed on the Practically Fit TikTok.
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All that said, there are still times when it's been challenging. In full transparency, I had wine with a friend last week when we went out to dinner after we'd both had a particularly crummy day. It was a conscious decision on my part, and rather than spending time beating myself up or saying, "well, I blew it, so I might as well give up," I just determined to get right back to it the next day. So far, so good!
Back to Alex, here. Similar to Jen, I’m feeling better about my sleep. As I mentioned on our Dry January podcast, I’ve really started to notice in the last year or so how alcohol negatively impacts my sleep. This coincides with wearing a Garmin watch when I sleep, which may have raised my own awareness of my sleeping patterns.
One of the knock-on effects of having a drink or two in the evening is my energy level the next morning. I usually feel tired and lower energy the morning after I’ve had a few drinks. My morning energy levels have felt much more consistent the past two weeks.
My wife is currently worried that I’m going to become a teetotaler after January, and completely swear off alcohol. But two weeks doth not a teetotaler make. I’m still missing my IPAs and pinot noir, so my current thought after Dry January is to really be more mindful about my drinking.
A key focus for me might be watching the size of the pour of my wine if I’m having a drink in the evening, or even drinking from a smaller glass (side note: wine glasses are seven times bigger than they were 300 years ago). I think another good strategy is to enjoy a beer after a long run or bike ride on the weekend, which typically means I’d be having it earlier in the day and affecting my sleep less.
All in all, Dry January’s been a good experience so far. This is the third time I’ve tried abstaining from alcohol for a whole month, and I’ve come up short both times. This time, I have a feeling I’m going to make it.