Owning your own business means working long hours. Making hundreds of small and large decisions. Inspiring, motivating, and setting a good example for your team. Dealing with constant anxiety.

That's why for many entrepreneurs health and fitness aren't a personal "interest"; health and fitness play a major role in their success. The physical benefits are clear: Exercising at moderate intensity for 20 minutes elevates your mood for up to 12 hours. Exercise improves memory and cognitive skills. Exercise can help you better manage stress.

But when you feel overworked and overwhelmed, and are struggling to make sense of the new normal -- including the need to work out at home -- it's tough to reap the benefits from exercise. 

Especially if you think, when you can't find 30 minutes to spare for working out, that there's no point in exercising at all.

If that's you, consider "exercise snacking." Instead of getting a whole "meal" of exercise in one shot, squeeze in five-minute snacks throughout the day. Or a few five-minute hors d'oeuvres and a bigger 15-minute snack. 

Exercise snacks are particularly useful when you target different muscle groups. For example, one snack might be three sets of 15 push-ups. The next snack could be several circuits of 10 lunges, 10 air squats, and 10 curtsey squats. The next snack could be two circuits of 20 leg lifts, 20 sit-ups, and a one-minute plank. 

Those snacks let you target relatively independent muscle groups: chest and triceps, then legs, then core. Which means you haven't "lost" any exercise benefit by consuming those snacks at different times in the day. A 2018 National Cancer Institute study shows that exercise snacks can yield benefits similar to those from longer workouts. 

Plus, snacks can also work for developing one muscle group. Pavel Tsatsouline, widely considered responsible for introducing kettle bells to the West and the founder of the strength education company StrongFirst, popularized the idea of doing a few sets of five reps of, say, pull-ups eight to 10 times throughout the day.

He claims you'll gain strength more quickly using that technique than by doing, say, 20 sets of pull-ups in one 30-minute workout.

How to Create Your Own Fitness Snacks

If you already have a fitness routine (even if you rarely follow it), the easiest place to start is to break it down into small pieces. Say you normally do a bodyweight routine that includes push-ups, lunges, squats, crunches, planks, and some burpees tossed in for cardio.

Simply break that down into pieces. And, since you don't have to work out for 30 minutes straight, up the intensity a bit to fill out the five-minute snack. If you normally do 20 push-ups, make it 30 or 40. Use the time period to inform the quantity.

Since you won't want to repeat the same snack plan every day -- unless you have a super high threshold for boredom -- feel free to mix in different body part exercises. Or do multiple exercises throughout the day for the same body part: One day can be upper body, the next legs, the next core, the next cardio.

Simply adapt your routine to your fitness goals and your current level of fitness.

For example, here's a whole-body workout I did yesterday: 

  • Snack 1: Five sets of 20 push-ups (30 seconds rest between sets)
  • Snack 2: Five sets of 15 pull-ups (30 seconds rest between sets)
  • Snack 3: Three sets of 30 air squats (40 seconds rest between sets)
  • Snack 4: Two 2.5-minute planks (20 seconds rest between)
  • Snack 5:  Four sets of 20 jumping split squats (20 seconds rest between)
  • Snack 6: 100 burpees (I'm embarrassed to say how long that took)

And here's the thing: No snack (except the burpees) required a lengthy recovery period. In fact, it felt good to get up and do something. I felt fresher, not tired.

Do something similar and you won't just enjoy the physical and emotional benefits.

You'll also start to reframe what "exercise" means, in a really good way. 

Because you can't make exercise a competitive advantage if you never find the time to exercise.