Non-exercise activity thermogenesis

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Use the NEAT factor (nonexercise activity thermogenesis) to burn calories

Published: January, 2015

Even when you’re not intentionally exercising, you’re still expending energy, whether you’re lying on the couch or sitting in a chair jiggling your legs. This so-called nonexercise activity thermogenesis, or NEAT, may be one factor that separates lean people from their heftier counterparts. For example, a man who sits in front of a screen most of the day (a computer at work and the television at night) burns far fewer calories during the day than one who works as a cashier and plays guitar during his leisure time—even if neither one does any formal exercise.

According to Dr. James Levine, the Mayo Clinic researcher who first described and continues to study this phenomenon, NEAT can vary between two people of similar size by up to 2,000 calories a day. One study that measured NEAT in lean and obese people (all of whom were sedentary and had similar jobs) found that obese people sat an average of two-and-a-half hours more per day than lean people, while lean people stood or walked more than two hours longer each day than obese people.

If you’re not a natural “NEAT-o-type,” you can train yourself to boost your NEAT throughout the day. Pace around while you talk on the phone. When possible, walk down the hall to talk to a co-worker instead of e-mailing or phoning. Be less efficient while cleaning the house by alternating tasks on different floors, so you have to go up and down the stairs more often. In effect, anything you can do throughout the day that cuts the amount of time you spend in a chair will help.

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8 Ways to Sit Less and Move More Each Day

Whether you’re an avid exerciser or a confirmed couch potato, simply moving more and sitting less can boost your health dramatically, according to a host of studies done during the past decade.

In fact, even if you dutifully work out every day, sitting for at least 13 hours a day and taking fewer than 4,000 steps per day can blunt the benefits of that exercise, increasing the risk of insulin resistance, poor blood sugar control, and a high level of the fatty acids called triglycerides. This, in turn, increases the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease, as suggested by research published in April 2019 in the Journal of Applied Physiology.

And Americans are sitting more today than ever before, according to a new analysis of U.S. government health surveys published in April 2019 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. The data, collected between 2001 and 2016 from almost 52,000 Americans, shows that over that time, average daily sitting time increased by roughly an hour, to almost six and a half hours for adults.

The good news is that according to the latest U.S. Department of Health and Human Services exercise guidelines, short durations of activity — even just a minute or two — count toward the minimum 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise that healthy adults should fit in weekly.

What’s more, even trivial-seeming moves like strumming a guitar, folding laundry in front of the television, and brushing your teeth help counter the negative effects of sitting for long stretches. Thanks go to nonexercise activity thermogenesis, otherwise known as NEAT, which is the scientific term for the way everyday activities stimulate your metabolism.

“It takes energy — calories — to move even the smallest muscle,” explains exercise physiologist Polly de Mille, RN, director of the Tisch Sports Performance Center at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. “For example, you burn about 1.5 calories per minute just lying still while your body performs its most basic functions.” Go from lying down to sitting in a chair and answering email and you’ll burn 25 percent more calories. Now start fidgeting in your chair and you’ll burn even more.

The more NEAT activities you engage in each day, the more calories you burn, which, in turn, helps you maintain or even lose weight, and improves your overall health, according to research published in June 2018 in the Journal of Exercise, Nutrition & Biochemistry. In fact, the amount of everyday activity you get beyond the 30 minutes of formal exercise you might be doing could matter even more for your health and longevity than trips to the gym, per research published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Here are some NEAT ways to make the move-more concept work for you.

1. Use Your Phone to Add Activity at Work

If you have a desk job or collapse on the couch as soon as you get home, train yourself to just get up more — it could help you live longer. People who stand fewer than three hours a day live around three years longer than their more sedentary peers, according to an analysis, published in the online journal BMJ Open, of five large-scale studies involving 2 million people in 20 countries. One easy way to reduce your sitting time is to set an alarm on your phone to remind you to stretch at your desk for a few minutes every hour. “Use talking on the phone as a cue to stand up and start pacing or just shifting your weight from one foot to the other,” adds de Mille. “Stand up and stretch every time you hit send on an email.”

2. Make Counting Your Steps Easy

To gauge how much moving you currently do and then motivate yourself to do more, de Mille suggests tracking your steps with a no-frills pedometer or a fitness tracker. “There’s nothing like having a running tally of your steps per day staring at you to make you want to move more,” de Mille says. You can easily add steps to almost every daily activity. “Park at the far end of the parking lot or get off the subway or bus a stop early,” she says. “Extra steps add up to significant calories over time.”

3. Take the Stairs Up or Down

If you want a NEAT activity that really pays dividends, take the stairs whenever possible. “If climbing stairs seems too daunting, take the elevator up and walk down on your way out,” de Mille suggests. “Or if you’re going to the fifth floor, walk up to two or three and take the elevator the rest of the way.”

4. Make Chores More Fun by Dancing

Cleaning is one at-home exercise that we all have to do — you might hate it, but it’s NEAT at its finest. Amp up the calorie burn by turning on some music to add extra pep to your step as you vacuum, iron, and tidy up around the apartment or house.

5. Carry Your Groceries Home

Combine strength training and errands on your next trip to the store: If you live within walking distance of your market, see whether you can carry the groceries in your arms rather than a cart. If you have to drive, turn unloading the car into an at-home exercise by adding a few bicep curls every time you lift a bag out of the trunk.

6. Fidget With Your Feet

Toe tapping and raising your heels while seated are not only NEAT exercises, they also work the muscles in the lower legs, and may even help prevent arterial disease, according to research published in July 2016 in the American Journal of Physiology: Heart and Circulatory Physiology. Placing a large book on your knees while raising your heels will provide more resistance and an even bigger boost in caloric expenditure.

7. Make the Most of Your Time While Standing in Line

Whether it’s at the grocery store, the post office, or the movies, waiting in line can transform the boring realities of life into a NEAT opportunity. “Stand on one leg or step side to side when waiting for an elevator, a bus, or a train,” de Mille suggests. “If you’re taking a subway or a bus, stand. There are plenty of people who will be grateful for your seat.”

8. Have a Ball While Sitting

Sitting on a chair requires no muscle activity at all, but sitting on a stability ball (also known as a fitness or balance ball) forces you to subtly contract lots of different muscles to maintain your balance. If you can’t sit on a ball at work, try it at home while watching television, eating dinner, playing video games, or reading.

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Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT)

Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise. It ranges from the energy expended walking to work, typing, performing yard work, undertaking agricultural tasks and fidgeting. Even trivial physical activities increase metabolic rate substantially and it is the cumulative impact of a multitude of exothermic actions that culminate in an individual’s daily NEAT. It is, therefore, not surprising that NEAT explains a vast majority of an individual’s non-resting energy needs.

Epidemiological studies highlight the importance of culture in promoting and quashing NEAT. Agricultural and manual workers have high NEAT, whereas wealth and industrialization appear to decrease NEAT.

Physiological studies demonstrate, intriguingly, that NEAT is modulated with changes in energy balance; NEAT increases with overfeeding and decreases with underfeeding. Thus, NEAT could be a critical component in how we maintain our body weight and/or develop obesity or lose weight.

The mechanism that regulates NEAT is unknown. However, hypothalamic factors have been identified that specifically and directly increase NEAT in animals. By understanding how NEAT is regulated we may come to appreciate that spontaneous physical activity is not spontaneous at all but carefully programmed.

5 Proven Ways to Boost Fat Loss With NEAT

Do you always approach fat loss and losing weight by increasing your gym time or dieting harder? Well, there’s an easier way!

Every fitness fanatic, cardio bunny and health enthusiast probably knows that to lose fat you need a negative energy balance – even those who “diet” by slurping up peanut butter banana smoothies packing a whopping 600 calories a pop (well…they know it at heart).

Understanding the negative energy balance (a calorie deficit) is part of the ABC’s of fat loss.

Energy expenditure has to be greater than energy intake in order to lose weight. This diagram explains energy expenditure through the prism of the ‘weekend cheat meal’ and why it can stop you losing weight.

So, where energy expenditure is concerned, you can diet, reducing your calories to ensure you’re eating below your maintenance level.

You can also increase your energy expenditure, in effect bringing up your maintenance calories with increased activity, but not adding any additional food.

Often people rely on the latter to trim off excess blubber, because significantly reducing calories isn’t that fun. Not for you and most likely not for anyone around you.

So we get ourselves up on a Saturday morning bright and early and haul ourselves into the gym for a training session, or we sweat it out on the treadmill for a full excruciating hour. After the gym, we head home and slink back onto the couch.

Satisfied with our efforts, we whip out some kale salad, and spend the rest of the day in hibernation mode: curled up under a blanket watching Netflix. We expect to wake up to see the numbers going down on the scale the next morning, but we may very well not. We’re still missing one giant piece of the fat loss puzzle – non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT).

What’s so NEAT about Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis?

Activity thermogenesis can be broken up into two categories.

Exercise activity thermogenesis is energy expended from exercise that we intentionally engage in (anything you do at the gym, going on a brisk run, etc.). We focus on activity thermogenesis – calories burned while exercising – when attempting to lose weight.

Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is the energy expended for everything we do when we’re not sleeping or exercising (hence the “non-exercise”). Mowing the lawn, walking up a flight of stairs to get to the office, even the hour of fidgeting after a strong cup of black coffee in the morning are all great examples. They all burn calories, and more than we would expect.

Our jobs and careers tend to impact our levels of NEAT greatly. Occupational NEAT is the activity thermogenesis resulting from work. Nurses, waiters or waitresses, construction workers or personal trainers – anyone working in an occupation that requires you to be on your feet moving about or engaging in any physical activity – would have levels of NEAT enough to make the rest of us green with envy.

For the rest of us who spend Monday to Friday chained to our desks sending e-mails, our levels of NEAT are generally appalling. The difference in energy expenditure between active and sedentary jobs can run into hundreds and hundreds of calories.

There are certainly ways to increase NEAT even when working in a sedentary occupation. You can do so either by working in some NEAT throughout the work day or upping leisure NEAT, the thermogenesis resulting from how you spend your spare time. Unfortunately, most of us don’t try to do so. We consistently and completely overlook NEAT.

Why Should You Care About Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis?

You might think that going to the gym makes up for the 8-12 hours you spend sitting at your desk every day. You don’t have to take the stairs, or leave your house to pick up dinner rather than ordering in because you’ve already spent an hour on the treadmill.

You probably don’t realise that the calories burned with the accumulation of all of those small activities would significantly outdo the calories you burned on the treadmill.

According to Dr James Levine, the Mayo Clinic researcher who first described the phenomenon of NEAT, it can vary by up to 2,000 calories a day between two people of the same size.

That means that just by moving around and being on your feet – like we humans were designed to be – you could burn an additional 2,000 calories without even trying. And 2,000 is a hefty number.

For some of us, that’s well above our calorie allowance for a full day. It’s hard to believe, but simply moving around throughout the day can burn 2,000 calories, though your full hour of torture staring at the clock on the stationary bike burns only 300 to 400.

Consider someone who works in finance, completely deskbound. The only time they move throughout the day is shooting to the restroom for a quick bathroom break, returning to the familiar indentation in their office chair as quickly as possible: that could equate to just 300 calories of occupational NEAT per day. They return home after a long and stressful day of work and plop themselves in front of the TV for a few minutes of viewing before they doze off: around 30 calories of leisure NEAT.

Now think of someone who works in farming, spending hours on their feet doing physical labour: that could equate to 2,300 calories of occupational NEAT.

Or someone who works as a waiter, zipping between customers all day, carrying heavy plates back and forth: this could total as much as 1,400 calories of occupational NEAT.

They come home, and instead of lying motionless in front of a screen they delve into some home repair, or dabble in some gardening: this could add up to as much as 600 calories of leisure NEAT. The difference can be significant.

We Don’t Move Much Anymore

The truth is we don’t move much these days. Compare today’s generation to our parents or grandparents. We spend more and more time in environments that require prolonged sitting: in offices, in cars, on the couch…we spend our days shifting from one seat to another.

We’re in the age of ease and convenience, and we want everything at our fingertips.

The workplace is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to declining activity.

Shifts in the labour force and the nature of work have resulted in a dramatic decrease in physical activity during the workday. We’re no longer earning our wages by the sweat of our brows. On top of that, we’re working longer hours, spending even more time seated.

Minor manual tasks that used to be routine in sedentary occupations now require no physical effort due to computerization and mechanization. What were once considered sedentary jobs, are now even more so.

We don’t walk over to our colleagues to relay a message; we just shoot them an e-mail. We don’t have to manually punch holes; there are machines that do it for us. We can get through an entire workday expending hardly any energy.

Advances in transportation have also brought out the lazy in all of us. Walking has become almost obsolete. Why walk when an Uber can conveniently scoop you up and deliver you right to your destination?

Walking tours have been reduced to gaggles of people in ridiculous helmets awkwardly scooting about on Segways. Instead of skateboards, today’s kids take to their neighbourhood streets on hoverboards. Stairs are archaic. We’d rather wait 10 minutes for a busy elevator than walk up a few flights.

Society as a whole is engineered to require as little movement or effort as possible. When you want a quick bite, you can have your food delivered to your doorstep. Even fast food is now being delivered.

When you need new clothes, just scroll through an online retailer, no need to step foot in a store. Everything is online, and just a few clicks away. TVs, iPads and computers are our main source of entertainment. Recent surveys have found that on average we spend 12 hours sitting a day. Couple that with 7-8 hours of sleeping and you’re at 19-20 hours of hardly any movement.

How Inactivity Impacts Fat Loss

Our sedentary lifestyles are detrimental to our health. Sitting is the new smoking. Obesity was rare a century ago. Today, nearly one third of the world’s population is obese or overweight. And since our genetic constitution hasn’t undergone a complete overhaul, there must be other reasons we’re getting plumper and plumper.

Sure, the foods that we’re eating are causing the numbers on our scales to creep up. But the fact that we’re too lazy to even get in a car and drive to a fast food restaurant is certainly not helping.

You will struggle to out-exercise a sedentary lifestyle. No matter how many times a week you make it to the gym, it will not make up for being seated for the remainder of your waking hours.

Focusing solely on the energy you use while exercising is one of the biggest fat loss mistakes you can make. Exercise will never make up for the energy you could be using living an active lifestyle. If you want to effectively lose fat, you need to move. When you’re dieting, ensuring you’re active throughout the day becomes that much more important.

The Myth of a ‘Slow Metabolism’

Most of us have heard that when you significantly reduce your calories, your metabolism slows down. We’re warned not to diet too hard so our metabolisms aren’t ‘downregulated’, in effect, harming our progress.

But the truth is our metabolisms don’t downregulate when we cut our calories. Our bodies don’t recognise that we’re eating less and immediately catapult into “starvation mode”.

The reason that our progress may eventually slow when we reduce calories is NEAT. We tend to expend less energy when we’re getting less energy from food. It’s a natural behavioural response to dieting.

When we’re eating fewer calories, we tend to move less. Physiological studies have demonstrated that NEAT increases with overfeeding, and decreases with underfeeding. It’s not hard to spot someone who is knee deep in a dieting phase. You’ll find them seated, motionless, not a tap of a finger or swing of a foot.

When dieting we tend to move as little as possible, other than when we’re exercising. As a result, our fat loss slows down. If you want to keep up your progress, keep up your NEAT.

5 Ways to Increase NEAT

1. Take the stairs

This is by far the simplest way to expend more energy throughout the day, and the easiest to accomplish. Ditch the elevator. Of course, if you work on the 24th floor, no one expects you to crawl your way to your desk every morning. But if you have just a few flights, go the old fashioned way – by foot. Or take the elevator to the 20th floor and hike the last four. And certainly don’t be the asshole that takes the elevator to the second floor. Not only will you be doing yourself a disservice by being unnecessarily lazy, but also everyone else in the elevator will hate you.

2. Get a standing desk

We already know that our occupation is one of the reasons our NEAT is so low. If you spend the majority of your day at your desk, you might as well be standing. While the number of calories expended standing at your desk vs sitting is not massive, you’ll be much more likely to move around if you’re already on your feet rather than slouched in your office chair. You might take more trips to the water cooler and subsequently more trips to the bathroom. You may pop over to your co-worker to tell them something rather than e-mail them. In addition, you will be doing yourself a massive favour when it comes to your posture. Sitting for long stretches of time can cause both back and neck pain.

3. Break up your day

Break up your day with short walks or trips. Maybe walk a few blocks to the second nearest Starbucks instead of the one directly next to your building. Or just get up and go for a 10-15 minute stroll every few hours to get your legs working. Once you get into the habit of it, you’ll crave the movement. Sitting for hours on end will feel unnatural and uncomfortable.

4. Do your errands

Yes, the Internet has made our lives infinitely more convenient and saves us tons of time. But it can also make our lives too convenient.

If you need groceries, physically go to the actual store for some shopping. Stroll through the aisles; carry your groceries in from the car. This is old fashioned, I know, but there’s really no reason to constantly use online shopping delivery sites. If you want to order a book, make your way to your nearest bookshop and pick it up rather than ordering it. Simple chores keep you moving and can also bring simple pleasures.

5. Do your own chores

It’s easy to hire people to come in to take care of your chores and housework for you. Bring someone in to mow the lawn, or tend to your garden. Sitting is enticing, and manual labour is tough. But taking care of the things around your house that require physical effort is a great way to use energy.

Wrapping Up

There’s no need to become one of those people who walks in circles around their neighbourhood at 10 pm, waiting for their Fitbit to vibrate with a chime of approval when they reach 10,000 steps.

Those extra few steps aren’t going to make a difference to your waistline. What will make a difference is changing your thinking, and your way of life. Make serious changes to the active human being your biology intends you to be. Fat loss will never coincide with a couch-potato lifestyle.

If you’re ready to start your body transformation and get in the shape of your life, speak to us about our Personal Training Plans.

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In today’s article, I’m going to explain N.E.A.T (Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis), why it’s one of the most overlooked factors in losing weight, and what you can do to fix it. I promise you, if you make these changes alone, it could be potentially life-changing and help fast track your path to success.

The Energy Balance Equation and Why You Need To Know It

Before we dive into the N.E.A.T principle, it’s important that you have a good understanding of the energy balance equation. Losing weight, gaining weight, or maintaining our weight depends on how many calories we take in versus how many we use up (in theory).

And it starts with the energy balance equation:

But what does this all mean? Great question. Here’s a quick overview.

Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR)

This is a measure of how much energy is required to keep the body in perfect homeostasis while asleep or resting. This includes basic bodily functions such as breathing, heartbeats, and maintaining a normal temperature. It also includes the number of calories burned while eating and doing light activities such as stretching, walking, going to the bathroom, etc.

It’s essentially the minimum number of calories you must expend to stay alive, and it’s surprisingly higher than you think.

Thermic Effect of Food (TEF)

In addition to using calories just to maintain our body’s basic functions, we also use calories to digest the foods that we eat. This is what’s known as the thermic effect of food (TEF). It varies considerably from food to food.

Protein, for example, is harder for our bodies to digest than simple carbohydrates. Therefore, eating protein increases the thermic effect. In other words, just by trading a portion of your processed carbs for some lean protein, you’ll end up burning more calories each day. Crazy right!

The N.E.A.T Principle – Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis

Non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or N.E.A.T., is a fancy name to describe the calories burned from all of the movement you do during the day that is not exercise, and it can make a big difference in your fat loss program. Examples of N.E.A.T are cooking, shopping, walking, gardening. Essentially day to day activities.

Physical Activity (PA)

This is essentially intentionally planned exercise. Examples of this can be running, cycling, mountain biking, sports, fitness classes, and weight lifting.

The Problems You Need to Be Aware of With N.E.A.T.

This is great in principle. However, did you know that N.E.A.T. can vary enormously from person to person and that N.E.A.T. can decrease when calories are restricted?

The human body is very intuitive and has a strong innate drive to keep us alive and to maintain homeostasis. When we cut calories without exercising, our metabolism (RMR) decreases, and proteins like leptin set off the drive to eat more.

Likewise, when we exercise at the same time as we cut calories, the metabolic efficiency of exercise often increases so that we burn fewer calories for the same amount of exercise. Not so good right?

This is very important. When we cut calories and try to increase our total energy expenditure, the body is trying to get us to stop. Without even realizing it, our workouts burn fewer calories and we become more lethargic.

Let’s look at a couple of examples:

  1. After a long tough workout, you decide to let the children take the dog out for a walk instead of taking your usual 45-minute walk. This may not sound like much, but this is essentially 250 fewer calories burned that day. Now add this up over the course of the week. That’s potentially 1750 fewer calories each week.
  2. After a long hard day of work and a tough workout, you get home and collapse onto the sofa. The thought of cooking is the furthest thing from your mind. So you order a take-a The kind of take-away is irrelevant, but essentially you’ve deprived yourself of an extra 130 calories you could have burned up cooking your own meal, not to mention clearing up afterwards.

Do you see how this can all add up?

So when you’re trying to lose weight by cutting calories, you need to be just as aware of your N.E.A.T. activity as you are of your workouts and the food you place in your mouth.

Why We Prioritize N.E.A.T. Activities Over Workouts

For years, I prioritized and scrutinized every single workout I did or prescribed for other people. Until one day, it hit me like a truck.

Why was I just focusing on only three to five hours of someone’s life each week?

That’s right, exercise usually makes up a small part of someone’s week. There are 160+ hours each week that we have to contend with, and that’s where the N.E.A.T. principle came in.

In a sixty-minute workout, we can burn anywhere from 100–1000 calories, depending on the activity or the intensity at which we work out. But what if we focused on the small differences we could make each day that would add up over time?

What if we put more emphasis on those changes so that we could end up burning the same number of calories, if not MORE, than when we worked out?

It’s how WWS came about (Walk, Water, Sleep). If we can help someone burn an extra 500 calories each day just by walking 10,000 steps—which, by the way, is the equivalent of losing one pound each week—think of the increased progress we can achieve.

Now, what if we include cooking, gardening, and everything else into the mix? We’re increasing their ability to expend more energy daily, and they haven’t even begun to exercise.

In theory, someone could burn close to 2,000 calories a day if they combine excellent N.E.A.T. principles and a good workout.

Think how much faster fat loss will (potentially) occur.

It’s a no brainer. However, it’s these small things that we don’t pay attention to and why they feature so highly on our Fit Over Thirty – 30 Day Challenge.

Now if you’re unsure about this methodology and are looking for science to back this up, multiple studies have shown that people who engage in intentional exercise, unconsciously either ate more to compensate or overcompensated for the calories burned by moving less after the exercise and thus negated their efforts to a degree.

It’s science.

Or in simpler terms … you can’t work out and then sit on your ass all day expecting to lose weight. You need to combine both N.E.A.T. and physical exercise.

The Secrets of Lean People

We published an article recently about why we stopped prioritizing diet for weight loss success. You can read it here: Why We Stopped Prioritizing Diet For Weight Loss Success

In a nutshell, we discovered that the fit and healthy amongst us were walking three times as much as our members who wanted to lose weight. That’s an additional 300–400 calories a day if we look at it from an energy balance perspective.

Many people who are trying to lose body fat compare themselves to already lean individuals. They compare the amount of exercise they do or the types of food they eat. Some even blame their genetics. But very few compare their day-to-day activities.

Most lean individuals are considerably more active every day, and this adds up over time. And we’re not talking workouts here.

It’s so easy to lose sight of this. I once did. The secret of the naturally lean is that they simply move more every day, adding to their daily calorie burn. This daily surplus of movement and expended calories add up over time, leading to weight loss, just as non-movement and surplus calories can lead to weight gained.

This really can be the subtle difference that’s holding you back in your weight loss journey. It could be the parking brake that’s applied as you try to drive towards a leaner body.

Maybe it’s not your workouts or your metabolism. Maybe you just need to sit less and move more.

Three Ways to Increase N.E.A.T. the Right Way

Now that you understand the importance of N.E.A.T., it’s time to find ways to increase it and incorporate it into your life.

  1. Walk More

This is by far the simplest way to expend more energy throughout the day, and it’s the easiest to accomplish. Take the stairs more, park further away in the parking lot, schedule 20-minute walks into your daily routine. Try to hit a daily minimum of 7k steps. (Learn more about the Triple Seven Rule here.)

  1. Get a Standing Desk

Even though the number of calories expended standing at your desk versus sitting is not a huge amount, you are much more likely to move around while on your feet than sitting down. Not to mention, you’re doing your thoracic spine and hip flexors a world of good at the same time. Back pain? The number of people who get relief from their pain (not everyone) by just switching from a seated to a standing desk is incredible. Give it a try, and you’ll be amazed at what happens.

  1. Do Your Own Cooking

And we don’t mean throw something in the microwave! On average, you will burn 200 calories per hour cooking. Throw in an extra 75 calories for cleaning up afterwards, and add the fact that you will be eating a healthy, nutritious meal. The benefits of home cooking go well above and beyond the food you put in your mouth. We can’t speak highly enough of this one.

What Is N.E.A.T & Three Ways to Increase it the Right WayClick To Tweet

Closing Thoughts

It turns out that N.E.A.T. can have quite a substantial impact on our metabolic rates and calorie expenditures. It is probably the most overlooked aspect in the process of losing fat and trying to lose weight. Since making this a priority for every single one of our members, we’re seeing the results skyrocket, and more importantly, we’re seeing the weight stay off for the long term.

If weight loss and fat loss is a priority for you right now, or if you’ve hit a plateau, turn your attention to N.E.A.T. Focus on the little things every day that add up. You’ll be amazed at what will happen in just a few weeks.

And remember, it all starts with WWS. That’s our best recommendation for you to get going.

Every Journey Begins With a Single Step

In every great movie, the hero embarks on a path that promises adventure, challenges, and finally, achievement. Often, the hero finds a guide that takes the hero under their wing and pushes him or her to the limit. Just think, where would Luke be without Yoda? We are the stars of our own movies. And we all need that guide.

When it comes to fitness, a coach can be your guide to movie hero-type success, and your secret weapon. There are so many benefits to having a personal coach. I would go so far as to say that coaching is a prerequisite for achievement. Period.

Applying the Strength Matters System of Athletic Development to achieve a pain-free athletic lifestyle won’t be easy but it’s guaranteed to work if you follow it. And we’re here to guide you every step of the way.

Are you ready to take that first step?

Apply to take our 30-day challenge today.

Life’s better as an everyday athlete. ~ James Breese

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The N.E.A.T. Way to Exercise

Most people think that the only way to burn calories is through scheduled exercise sessions. Although exercise is the most ideal way to expend a lot of calories, there are additional ways to burn them throughout the day that are not programmed sessions. Both weight loss and weight maintenance can be made easier with a clear understanding of non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or N.E.A.T.

Non-exercise activity thermogenesis includes the calories expended outside of exercise, eating and sleeping. There are many N.E.A.T. activities that we already do, but may not realize its caloric output effect. Simple tasks such as raking leaves, physical labor, climbing stairs and even fidgeting help us expend additional calories. In essence, N.E.A.T. increases metabolic rate and results in a substantial energy cost overtime.

Recent movement findings were discussed in the ACE webinar, “Consequences of Sitting and How to Become a Movement Warrior.” Research suggests that individuals who move throughout the day are more likely to reach or maintain weight-loss goals versus those who are sedentary throughout the day and vigorously move through one exercise session. Therefore, a greater caloric output occurs throughout the day rather than during one vigorous exercise session. Researcher James Levine, M.D., who has published several journal articles on the positive effects of N.E.A.T., found that adopting N.E.A.T. behaviors can increase daily caloric expenditure by as much as 350 calories per day, and is particularly beneficial for obese individuals.

Most people spend the majority of their day at work. One way to increase caloric burn is to implement non-exercise movement throughout the workday. Agriculture, construction and housekeeping trades are good examples of high N.E.A.T. jobs because they require a high demand for movement. On the other hand, desk jobs are primarily sedentary and do not expend much energy cost. So how can you increase your N.E.A.T. during the workday? Here are some creative ideas to integrate movement:

Change your mode of transportation. Walk, bike or bus to work instead of driving. This starts and ends the day on a good note, along with a breath of fresh air.

Implement walking meetings. Head outdoors and boost your team’s creativity with a walking meeting. Walking is an effective way to burn calories, stimulate the brain and bond the team.

Throw out your garbage can. Give your eyes and body a break from the computer screen by removing your garbage can from under your desk. This gives you a reason to get up and walk to the workroom or break room to throw out your trash or recycling materials.

Create wellness challenges. Talk to your HR or Wellness department about creating walking challenges. If HR cannot help, form walking teams within your department. One challenge may include walking 10,000 steps per day for 10 days. Individuals who meet or exceed the goal’s challenge can win a prize or an incentive reward. Pedometers and Fitbit devices are beneficial tools to track these steps.

Take the stairs. This old adage still rings true. Skip the elevator and take the stairs to keep the body moving throughout the day.

Stand instead of sit. Adjustable and treadmill desks are becoming increasingly popular in the workplace. However, if these desks are not available, raise your work to a podium or counter so you can stand throughout the day. This is advantageous for those who need to read or work from a laptop or mobile device. Resting heart rate is higher while standing than sitting, thus increasing caloric output.

Accumulated physical activity can significantly increase the number of calories burned throughout the day or week. Therefore, if you’re tied behind the desk remember there are plenty of ways to incorporate movement when you cannot formally exercise. Other N.E.A.T. examples include:

  • Playing with your kids
  • Completing yard work
  • Grocery shopping
  • Walking the dog
  • Cleaning the house

If your day lacks N.E.A.T., think of one or two ideas that you can start with to integrate movement into your day or week. For those who track calories, use www.myfitnesspal.com to find an estimated calorie burn based on the activity, length of time and current weight. This site, along with other websites, does not consider gender, which does affect the caloric output. However, it is an effective guide for calculating caloric burn, especially for activities such as chores or yard work. Myfitnesspal.com is free and easy to use for those who do not have a current calorie tracker device or website.

So the next time you’re looking to rev up your calorie burn, choose the N.E.A.T. way to stay active. N.E.A.T. is a beneficial addition to your exercise routine that does not take time away from home or family—perfect for those who find time is their worst enemy.

How To Increase Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT)

By Dr Joe

“To my generation, technology is second nature, while yours fumbles through it. Makes you kinda jealous, eh?

These were the words a Cartoon character, Curtis told his dad in one of the episodes.

In return Curtis’ dad brought out his yo-yo and performed some amazing tricks on it. Curtis retorted by telling his dad that the tricks he performed on his yo-yo a short while earlier were “child’s play”.

Curtis’ dad then handed the yo-yo to Curtis to see if he could replicate the yo-yo tricks seeing as he felt they were easy peasy.

Curtis began playing with the yo-yo but got increasingly frustrated. He could neither duplicate none of the tricks his father pulled off earlier nor get the yo-yo to swing up and down harmoniously.

Curtis’ father got some satisfaction from watching his son’s frustration and lack of patience.

It’s obvious there are generational differences. What one generation might be very sleek at, another may find it challenging.

Obesity generational differences

In historical terms, obesity as a phenomenon has undergone such generational transformation. Obesity has become increasingly worse in this generation than it was generations earlier.

Want evidence?

Just have a look at those black and white photographs from the 19th and the first half of the 20th century. You will notice something stark. You may have missed it. But I should remind you to pay attention next time you look at those black and white photographs.

What you will find is that; our great great gandparents were noticeably thinner compared to images on photographs today. Obesity rates were in the region of 2% in the time period I’m talking about.

What is the explanation for the obesity generational differences?

I believe the difference lies in what is now being described as NEAT.

What does NEAT energy expenditure mean?

NEAT refers to Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. Long name, I know.

But its meaning can transform the way you look at obesity and it’s associated problems.

Losing fat doesn’t have to mean doing a lot outside of your routine physical activities.

Still wondering what Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis actually means?

Well, it’s any physical activity that you do in your everyday existence that is not deemed as voluntary workout.

So, as I type this article now, I am engaging in a NEAT energy expenditure. So is cooking, gardening, mowing the lawn, picking up the remote control, cleaning the house, vacuum cleaning the floor…

…mopping your kitchen floor, driving, walking around the mall shopping, climbing the stairs in your house or the office, talking to your boss, husband, wife, kids, scratching your head, running after the toddler, scrubbing your feet…you get the drift.

Any movement that you make that is outside of a regular work out is deemed as NEAT (non exercise activity thermogenesis).

Why is NEAT important?

These activities may look insignificant or minor at first glance, but they all add up over the course of the day and it is the cumulative effect of all of these activities that constitute Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis.

And the Thermogenesis refers to the calories we burn by virtue of these activities.

James A. Levine, MD, PhD, of the Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, Metabolism, and Nutrition at Mayo Clinic Rochester, has been studying the concept of NEAT.

James is of the view that NEAT or the lack of it; is a huge contributor to the obesity epidemic in the US and does not think the blame lies squarely on the doorsteps of increased calorie intake only.

Dr Levine explains:

“Exercise is defined as ‘bodily exertion for the sake of developing and maintaining physical fitness,’ for example, participating in a sport or visiting the gym. The vast majority of the world’s population do not participate in exercise, as so defined, and for them, exercise activity thermogenesis is zero.

Even for the minority of people who do exercise, for most of them, exercise accounts for an energy expenditure of 100 calories per day. Thus, NEAT explains why an active person can expend 2,000 calories per day more than an inactive person of the same size.

NEAT is the energy expenditure of all physical activities other than volitional sport-ing-like exercise. NEAT includes all those activities that render us vibrant, unique, and independent beings.”

How do you burn calories everyday?

Perhaps this will be a good time to talk about how we burn calories daily as we lead our lives.

Energy expenditure (how we burn calories) is accounted for by 3 mechanisms:

  • Basal metabolic rate – 60%
  • Thermic effect of food – 10%
  • Activity Thermogenesis – 30%

Now let’s talk about all of the 3 ways we burn calories everyday.

Basal metabolic rate

What is basal metabolic rate?
Basal metabolic rate is energy spent by basically being alive. If you are wondering how you burn calories doing absolutely nothing, well this how.

Your basal metabolic rate accounts for how you burn calories when we are sleeping. Yes, even we are asleep doing nothing at all, the metabolic processes going on in your body do use up energy to keep you alive.

When you are awake and doing nothing, you still burn calories through activities breathing, blinking your eyelids, talking, your heart beating etc. Involuntary activities that have to happen to keep us alive like your breating and heart beating use up energy whether we like it or not.

Energy expenditure from these involuntary activities and bodily functions constitute basal metabolic rate.

Thermic effect of food

Thermic effect of food is the energy used up by the process of food consumption to energy conversion i.e eating, digestion and food metabolism. It is a small fraction of energy expenditure and equates to only about 10%.

Activity Thermogenesis

Activity thermogenesis makes up the rest of the energy expenditure. Activity thermogenesis constitutes 30% of the calories we burn everyday.

Activity thermogenesis is split up in 2 – Exercise and Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis.

Exercise activity thermogenesis is energy expenditure that occurs from voluntary aerobic and non-aerobic exercise undertaken by an individual.

Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) which is what we are discussing right here.

Non-Exercise Activity thermogenesis can be sub-divided into Occupational activity thermogenesis and Leisure activity thermogenesis.

Occupational activity thermogenesis (Occupational NEAT) is made up of all exercise activity related to what you do for a living. Exercise activity related to your job.

A post-man will have a higher occupational activity thermogenesis than an office worker who sits in front of a computer all day.

Same goes for someone who does agricultural work. Working in the fields ploughing, planting, harvesting will burn a lot more calories compared to the bank counter clerk.

Table below adapted from this study and published by the Mayo Clinic gives some idea of how NEAT from occupational activity may differ significantly between types of jobs.

Occupational Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT)

Occupation Type NEAT Calories/day
Chair-bound 300
Seated work (no option of moving) 700
Seated work (discretion and requirement to move) 1,000
Standing work (eg, homemaker, cashier) 1,400
Strenuous work (eg, farming) 2,300

Leisure activity thermogenesis (Leisure NEAT) is the energy you burn doing regular stuff in and around the house.

Without being offensive (people get offended easily these days, don’t they), I would hazard a guess that women will have a higher leisure activity thermogenesis than men in and around the house. Of course this wouldn’t be true across the board, I should add.

James Levine from his research believes that NEAT may vary as much as 2000 Calories per day between individuals. Lots of short little movements is what constitutes your NEAT (non exeercise activity thermogenesis).

Overweight people tend to have low NEAT and their slimmer cousins tend to have high NEAT (within reason).

Our great great grandparents definitely had very high NEAT(non exercise activity thermogenesis) compared to our current level of NEAT today.

Obesity is not a problem confined to the West as most people think. The nations of the Eastern hemisphere are having their own little battle of obesity.

Obesity is a burgeoning problem of even smaller nations in the pacific.

China is having its own little crisis with obesity and an alarming increase in the rate of heart disease compared to the earlier periods of the 20th century.

Urbanisation and industrialisation are huge contributory factors. Availability of foods rich in processed foods complicated by a wave of sedentary lifestyle, both in the workplace and at home.

I talked about generational differences earlier on in this article. I strongly believe this is a factor in the obesity epidemic the world over.

We have become too sedentary in our lifestyles. Gone are the days when walking, for instance, was actually a necessity because there weren’t many cars as we have today.

Obesity is a serious problem in America. But the rates of obesity is proportionately worse amongst American Indians such that obesity prevention programs are now being targeted at children to save their future. Nice strategy!

Psmag reports:

“Over 80% of American Indian and Alaska Native adults are overweight or obese; about half of American Indian children are at an unhealthy weight; and it’s estimated 30% of American Indians and Alaska Natives have pre-diabetes. Compare those statistics to American adults in general, two-thirds of whom are overweight or obese, and 27% of whom are estimated to have pre-diabetes”

This is the same American Indians who had an obesity rate that was less than 2% when they were doing their thing before colonisation took place.

The typical American Indian before colonisation had a very high NEAT.

They farmed. They hunted. They made tools. They cooked. They made their own shelters. They even participated in warfare (not encouraged by this article).

The American Indians developed their own sports, the Native American Stickball, apparently not too dissimilar to Lacrosse. They were ingenious enough to use their developed games to settle scores between communities as a substitute to going to war.

Their agricultural practices were very basic. Totally unmechanised farming that required physical labour. The American Indian woman grew her own food whilst the men went hunting and fishing.

When it was time for harvest, they knew they will get abundance of berries, roots, fruits, mushrooms, nuts, and eggs.

They ate when food was available and did without when there was scarcity.

But in all of these, you will notice a consistent trend – a very high NEAT.

Having a high NEAT helps you keep energy balance negative. Weight increase is more likely when energy balance is in the positive realm.

What we can learn from the Amish Community.

The Old Order Amish community. The Amish shun modern conveniences. They probably see them as “evil”. Just like the American Indians used to do. Their farming methods remain labour-intensive.

The result – obesity rates amongst the Amish is still 4%. Even the Amish who have the obesity gene have managed to override it by just having a very high NEAT in their daily routines.

This study of the Old Order Amish showed Amish men complete an average of 18,425 steps a day and walked an average of 12-hour week whilst the women put in a shift of 14,196 daily steps with an average walking of 5.7 hours.

The average person in the Western hemisphere struggles to get in 4000 steps a day. Something surprising in that study is the Amish diet is not strictly healthy.

The Amish diet was neither low fat nor low carb.

More succinctly, the study stated “The Amish diet is typical of the pre-World War II rural diet. It includes meat, potatoes, gravy, eggs, vegetables, bread, pies, cakes, and is quite high in fat and refined sugar”

The men in the cohort had an obesity rate of 0%.

The Amish seem to be overriding their dietary indiscretions by ramping up their NEAT (non exercise activity thermogenesis) and it is working. They have obesity rate that puts the rest of the developed world to shame.

The conclusion from the study being that the high NEAT levels is the reason the Amish community have a low rate of obesity.

There is no doubt that communities with high NEAT routines do better in terms of obesity and its related complications like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, strokes and cancer.

With this knowledge to hand, you have no excuse now not to improve what I would describe as your NEAT ratings.

Simply increasing your NEAT (non exercise activity thermogenesis) routines will do a lot for your waistline. All of it could stem from Leisure non exercise activity thermogenesis (leisure NEAT) routines as well as Occupational non exercise activity thermogenesis (Occupational NEAT) routines.

Of course, if you add some formal workout to your NEAT (non exercise activity thermogenesis) routines, then you will ramp up the negativity of your energy balance.

Remember, this is all about increasing your energy expenditure thereby tilting your energy balance into a calorie deficit daily. Doing that on a daily basis is a surefire way of burning fat…

…even if you do not undertake formal exercise work out.

Holding that thought, what can you do to increase your NEAT?

How to increase non exercise activity thermogenesis

Increasing non exercise activity thermogenesis is not rocket science. All you need is a little imagination and creativity.

The non exercise activity thermogenesis examples below will give you some ideas about how to increase or boost your NEAT (non exercise activity thermogenesis) without trying too hard or embarking on a diet.

  1. Doing your gardening a lot more vigorously.
  2. Become keen to undertake doing the household chores – washing, ironing, vacuum cleaning, mopping the floor, cleaning the bathrooms. You don’t need a paid domestic cleaner!
  3. Get a lightweight kettlebell or dumb bell like a 3-lb one and do a low-level no-sweat workout whilst watching TV.
  4. Use the stairs at work. The higher the floor your office is, the more you will get from this non exercise activity thermogenesis example.
  5. Have walking meetings instead of boardroom-style meetings.
  6. Wash the car yourself manually instead of using the automatic car wash.
  7. Walk to post your letters instead of driving there.
  8. Walk to do light shopping where all your shopping will fit into one bag instead of driving.
  9. Walk to work if your office is within 5-mile radius to your residence. Doing this will give you a return mileage of 10 miles every working day. How cool is that.
  10. Walk to the hair salon for your hair cut or hair grooming and back.
  11. If you use public transport to work, how about coming off at least a mile or two before your usual bus stop. Do the same on your way back home. Come off the bus early.
  12. Use the rake to gather leaves in the garden in autumn instead of using the leaf blower.
  13. Install tools on your PC or Mac like exertime which forces you to exit your computer after pre-set intervals and do some physical activity which must be logged before you can resume your previous task.
  14. Have an office re-design with treadmill desks where the tasks undertaken allows for this. It doesn’t have to be on every desk. Workers can elect to use those treadmill desks in turns, but they are there for everyone to use when they so please.

When you consider the fact that NEAT (non exercise activity thermogenesis) routines are activities that you do in between workouts which could be days apart, revving them up supplements whatever else you are doing to maintain your weight.

This is not about dieting. This is about doing little non-formal exercise things better. Amplifying your NEAT may not sound like much, but cumulatively it adds up and complements any fat burning measures you already have on the map.

All it takes is a little imagination and motivation to keep going and doing more.

If you ramp up your NEAT (non exercise activity thermogenesis), maybe you never have to worry too much about what you eat any longer…just like the Amish.

Suggested further reading:
1 Obscure Trick To Make ANY Exercise Program More Effective

You’re probably familiar with the core principles of weight loss: eating healthy, exercising, getting enough sleep, and managing stress. And while these factors all play a role, there’s one concept that’s often overlooked when it comes to weight loss: nonexercise activity thermogenesis, or NEAT.

NEAT refers to any activity that you do throughout the day outside of formal exercise and sleeping. “NEAT is a huge part of the weight-loss puzzle that many people overlook,” Eric Bowling, an NASM-certified personal trainer at Ultimate Performance in Los Angeles who helps clients lose weight, told POPSUGAR. “Your hour in the gym will only contribute so much to your daily energy expenditure; it’s what you do in the other 23 hours of your day that has a much bigger impact on your overall energy expenditure.”

For people who work more labor-intensive and active jobs — construction workers, personal trainers, restaurant servers — their NEAT is usually sufficient throughout the day. But for the rest of us, who work sedentary jobs where we drive to work and sit at a desk for eight or more hours before driving home and watching TV on the couch, our NEAT is basically nonexistent.

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One of the easiest ways to increase NEAT is to get in more steps — aim for 10,000 a day for weight loss. You can track your steps with a Fitbit, Apple Watch, pedometer, or free app on your smartphone. Struggling to get your steps in? Try parking farther away from your destination or getting off a stop or two before your destination on public transportation. Looking for more ways to up your NEAT? Check out this list below, including ideas from Eric.

Examples of NEAT:

  • Sweeping
  • Dusting
  • Washing dishes
  • Vacuuming
  • DIY projects
  • Mowing the lawn
  • Raking leaves
  • Gardening
  • Washing the car
  • Playing with your kids
  • Taking the dog for a walk
  • Going on a hike with a friend
  • Walking with your partner after dinner
  • Exploring your city
  • Carrying groceries back from the store
  • Doing a quick bodyweight circuit when you wake up

Image Source: Getty / Jacobs Stock Photography Ltd

Vanderbilt Faculty & Staff Health and Wellness

Did you know that little changes to your routine can help you burn more calories?

Many overweight people in the USA have “sitting disease” and would lose weight if they did more walking, standing and moving around during the day, says endocrinologist James Levine of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Levine is talking about increasing your NEAT, or “non-exercise activity thermogenesis,” which accounts for much of your movement and calorie expenditure throughout the day.

These are activities such as:

  • walking to lunch
  • pacing while on the phone
  • cleaning the house
  • cooking
  • climbing stairs
  • standing while you talk to a friend
  • folding laundry

According to Dr. Levine “…the energy expenditure of all physical activities other than volitional sporting-like exercise. NEAT includes all those activities that render us vibrant, unique and independent beings such as dancing, going to work or school, shoveling snow, playing the guitar, swimming or walking in the modern Mall.”

Dr. Levine’s work has shown that NEAT burns an average of 330 calories per day in healthy individuals (and up to nearly 700 calories/day in some people!), and that obese individuals perform drastically less NEAT than their lean counterparts.

Levine has also made convincing arguments that NEAT could burn up to 1000 calories per day when properly incorporated throughout the work day. These results suggest that NEAT can burn a tremendous amount of calories, which has obvious implications for weight maintenance and obesity prevention.

So, how can you reduce your time spent being sedentary and increase your NEAT levels? It’s not as hard as you may think!

LITTLE CHANGES CAN ADD UP
Here are examples of how you can change your daily routine to burn more calories:

Typical day at the office Calories burned Picking up the pace Calories burned
Park by building, take elevator to your floor. 15 Park 5 blocks from office. Take stairs to your floor. 80-120
Make phone calls for an hour at desk. 15 Take calls standing up and pacing. Put notepad on bookcase or filing cabinet to take notes without bending down. 100-130
Seated 45-minute lunch. 25 Walk 30 minutes at lunch; sit and eat 15 minutes. 100-130
Seated 1-hour meeting. 15 1-hour walking meeting. 150-200
Take elevator to ground floor. Walk to car. Drive home. 15 Take stairs out of the building, walk back to car. 80-100
Total 85 Total 510-680

Source: Move a Little, Lose a Lot by James Levine and Selene Yeager

Learn more about Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis

Viewthe Health Plus Healthier You presentation The N.E.A.T. Part of Exercise

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