Have you heard the latest? Snacking is good for you. Not food snacking—exercise snacking. Researchers in New Zealand recently conducted a study that showed that multiple, brief portions of exercise in a single day—“exercise snacks,” the researchers dubbed them—may control blood sugar better than a single, continuous workout. The study was conducted on men and women with insulin resistance, a common precursor of Type 2 diabetes. Though, the news is relevant to anyone who wants to stay healthy by keeping blood sugar under control. In the study, participants who exercised for 12 minutes before breakfast, 12 before lunch, and 12 before dinner had far lower blood-sugar levels after dinner than those who exercised only once in a day, for 30 minutes before dinner. They also kept their blood-sugar levels lower for longer—over 24 hours as opposed to less than a day.
What does this mean for health clubs, gyms, fitness centres, and exercise boutiques? Well, you need to be prepared to serve members and clients who are looking to get to your facility three times a day. Also, if you want to help your members and clients reach their health-related goals (and you do, because their success is your success), you should probably think about how to encourage those who aren’t necessarily looking to get there three times a day to do so — and, let’s face it, many of them most likely struggle to get there once a day. Scientists have long argued that shorter, more frequent bursts of exercise are more beneficial than long, continuous spells. As the body of research supporting this hypothesis grows, more and more people will be demanding — and needing — to fit this new way of working out into their daily routines. This is especially true because, as researchers of the New Zealand study discovered, the blood-sugar benefits (and it remains to be seen which other benefits) are strongest when the exercise snacks consist of high intensity interval training. For most people, such training is much easier to do at a facility, with trainers and functional fitness equipment, than at home.
Here are a few ideas to consider:
1) Create a new three-times-a-day program. First, be sure to spread the word about the findings of the New Zealand study (and other studies that show the benefits of exercise snacking). Then, establish a structured program to help people get started. Designate a core group of trainers to work with the three-times-a-day-ers: They’ll have to work hard to motivate their clients to come before breakfast, lunch, and dinner. At the same time, they’ll need to plan out careful twelve-minute exercise sessions, preferably high-intensity interval routines.
2) Everything’s easier with incentives. What discounts, rewards, or deals can you offer your members for trying out a new three-times-a-day program? Can you provide a day pass that will allow them fast-track entry each time, or a free smoothie from the juice bar after they complete their third workout? Can you give a free month to members who manage to make it to your facility three times a day, three days a week, for one month? Or maybe you can offer a month at half price for anyone who comes in three times a day with a friend at least twice in one month. The possible variations are limited only by your imagination.
3) If your facility has the capacity to serve food, consider providing three-times-a-day-ers with vouchers for at least one meal on their exercise days. This might make it easier for them to contemplate the logistics of coming to and leaving your facility three times in one day. They might, for example, come before breakfast, head to work, come before lunch and then stay and have lunch, and come again before dinner.
4) If it’s feasible, consider offering three-times-a-day classes in a couple of satellite locations in addition to your facility (maybe there’s an empty warehouse somewhere on the other side of town?). That way, members who live or work further away from your facility have a choice in where to go, and choices make for convenience.
As the trend increases and the demand for facilities to accommodate for more frequent, briefer sessions grows, health clubs and other fitness venues will learn what works and what doesn’t. Now is the time to get started — put yourself at the forefront of the exercise snack trend, and you’ll find yourself the leader of a pack before long.