Use intermittent movement breaks and trigger workouts to improve productivity and decrease stress
Lack of time (or perceived lack of time) is the number one reason why people don’t get to the gym or even exercise at home. We get it. You’ve got long days at work, busy and seemingly short weekends, no sitter for your kiddos, and you need to prepare meals and do the laundry.
Driving an extra 15 minutes to get to the gym before or after work can feel like a burden, not to mention the fact that you need to have your gym clothes prepared and maybe even a shower bag so you can rush to work. Heck, even setting aside 30 minutes for an at-home workout feels impossible.
Time issues aside, let's say you do get to the gym and you work out for an hour every day. Do you go home or to work and sit the rest of the day? Unfortunately, one hour in the gym will not combat 10 to 12 hours of sitting.
This is where trigger workouts and movement breaks come in. They reverse the formula of training one hour and then sitting the rest of the day. Instead, the focus is on intermittently moving throughout the day. Trigger workouts help you implement more movement throughout your day without feeling like you’re dedicating a massive chunk of your day to exercise.
What are trigger workouts?
“Triggered” — if you’ve been on the internet at all over the past year, you’ve heard this term or seen it used in a meme. It’s used to describe an emotional or physical feeling or reaction caused by a trigger, usually from a past trauma.
Trigger workouts are built around this concept, except you get to pick your triggers. What fun!
For example, you’ll choose a “trigger” like walking through the kitchen door and you’ll pick an exercise and rep scheme to go along with it. From now on, walking through the kitchen door triggers a physical reaction from you to immediately stop what you’re doing and do 10 squats or whatever exercise you choose.
You can choose however many triggers you want. This could look like choosing an exercise to do each time you get up from your desk for lunch and a different exercise each night when you brush your teeth. You can see how this adds up to a lot of reps throughout the day without actually stopping for a specific one to two hour workout window.
What we love about trigger workouts is that they are simple to implement. There are no questions about when, how, or where you’re going to do them, and it’s very likely that you have time to do 10 quick squats or five push ups here and there.
Sounds like a solid way to build a habit, right?
What are movement breaks?
Movement breaks are just that. Literally taking a specific time frame out of your day one to three times to move your body any way you like.
This could look like anything from five to thirty minutes of play (we’re fans of handstand practice and playing fetch with dogs), structured movement or mobility work, walking in the sunshine, or gently stretching.
Personally, I use movement breaks as a way to give my mind and body a break from my structured work day. I don’t set a specific goal for my movement breaks because I follow a structured training program, so oftentimes, you’ll find me listening to some music and dancing too!
Why you should use both
Improve body composition
More movement typically means a better body composition. When you regularly implement trigger workouts and movement breaks, you will increase your overall daily calorie expenditure. There is also a good chance that you’ll build more lean tissue (muscle mass), which will raise your basal metabolic rate.
Reduce time sitting
According to Just Stand, the average American sits roughly 12 hours per day. The National Institute of Health has proven that this kind of sedentary lifestyle can lead to many cardiovascular conditions, diseases, and mental health disorders.
Performing trigger workouts and movement breaks will get your heart rate up and blood flowing several times a day, combating the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle.
A 19 week study on the effects of increased movement in the workplace showed that workers who moved more throughout the day were more productive than workers who didn’t. Exercise can also help improve concentration, memory, and mood, all of which play into productivity.
Stress indisputably affects the inability to concentrate. Exercise helps boost your “feel-good” neurotransmitters (endorphins), which in turn helps reduce stress levels.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, seven out of every ten Americans experience some level of stress or anxiety daily and doing even as little as five minutes of aerobic activity can stimulate anti-anxiety effects.
Should you stop going to the gym?
You shouldn't stop going to the gym! Trigger workouts and movement breaks are perfect for when you’re short on time. We firmly believe in following an actual training program rather than randomly exercising, especially if you’ve got specific goals or injuries. However, we do believe that trigger workouts and movement breaks are a great addition to your regular training because of how frequently they get you up and moving.
Smarter Sweat takeaways
Trigger workouts and movement breaks have no specific rules except to follow the parameters you set for them. For these to work as designed means that you need to implement them even on the days you feel lazy. You create the triggers, the reps, the breaks, and the “workouts” — so keep in mind that less is more when it comes to all of the above. As always, you should feel you can do what you choose even on your worst of days.
Trigger workouts and movement breaks do not replace your normal training program, however, we believe any movement is better than no movement. If this is all you have time for, it’s likely that you’ll notice a big difference in your mood, energy level, and productivity or focus upon returning to whatever task is at hand.
It’s 2021 — stay triggered, y’all.
Owen N, Sparling PB, Healy GN, Dunstan DW, Matthews CE. Sedentary behavior: emerging evidence for a new health risk. Mayo Clin Proc. 2010;85(12):1138-1141. doi:10.4065/mcp.2010.0444
Puig-Ribera A, Bort-Roig J, Giné-Garriga M, et al. Impact of a workplace 'sit less, move more' program on efficiency-related outcomes of office employees. BMC Public Health. 2017;17(1):455. Published 2017 May 16. doi:10.1186/s12889-017-4367-8
By Ashley Pfantz
Ashley is the cofounder of Smarter Sweat, certified personal trainer and professional health and fitness coach. She also owns Smarter Sweat I.D., an individualized fitness, nourishment, and lifestyle coaching business where she coaches all of her clients remotely
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About Smarter Sweat
Smarter Sweat is a fitness company built from the ground up by fitness experts Amanda Capritto and Ashley Phantz. Amanda and Ashley are both dead-set on cutting through the clutter of the fitness industry and providing raw, real, utterly honest information about fitness and wellness.