You have probably heard that 30 minutes of exercise a day is recommended for good health and weight management. I am not saying that those 30 minutes of exercise are not important…but there is something known as “NEAT,” or non-exercise activity thermogenesis, which contributes much more to your weight loss efforts than exercise does!
Before I discuss N.E.A.T more in-depth, I would like to look at what contributes to losing what. Weight loss or gain comes down to your metabolism. More specifically, it comes down to calories in versus calories out. If you consume more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. If you burn more calories than you consume, you will lose weight.
Metabolism refers to the breaking down and building up of the nutrients that you costume. Your metabolism consists of your basal metabolic rate, thermic effect of food, and activity. Basal, or resting, metabolic rate (BMR/RMR) refers to the energy that you expend while at rest and averages out to be about 60% of your total energy expenditure for the day. The more lean body mass that you have, the more energy that you will burn at rest.
Thermic effect of food (TEF) is the energy used to digest, process, and assimilate the food that you eat. TEF, on average, accounts for 10-15% of your total daily energy expenditure. BMR and TEF, for the most part, are out of your control. It is true that you can increase your BMR by adding lean mass. However, it takes time and dedication to consistently add lean mass – meaning it will not change dramatically over night.
The last factor that contributes to your metabolism is activity. Activity is generally split into two categories – exercise activity (i.e. group classes, working out, biking) and non-exercise activity (daily tasks, fidgeting, walking, housework), also known as N.E.A.T. Unlike your BMR and TEF, your metabolism can be greatly impacted what you do throughout the day! Depending on how active you are, activity can make up anywhere from 15-50% of your total daily energy expenditure!
NEAT and Weight Loss
As I mentioned to in the introduction, N.E.A.T actually contributes more to your total daily energy expenditure than exercise activity does. On average, you will burn between 200-300 calories per workout. The amount you actually burn depends on a few factors like gender, age, type of exercise. Click here to get a better idea of how many calories you are burning! N.E.A.T, on the other hand, can burn around 300-2000 calories per day – 300 calories for a more sedentary individual and 2000 for a highly active individual! This makes sense because workouts generally take about an hour or less to complete. The remaining 23 hours in a day contribute to your daily N.E.A.T! When it comes to weight loss, this can either make or break your efforts!
Factors Affecting NEAT
The question remains…what factors affect your N.E.A.T? Studies show that the biggest factors include occupation, seasons, body composition, and energy intake. Labor intensive jobs contribute greatly to N.E.A.T; whereas, more sedentary jobs have little impact. Seasons affect N.E.A.T because they affect one’s ability to partake in outdoor activities. It has been shown that N.E.A.T is greater in the summer versus the winter
As for body composition, studies have indicated that lean individuals have higher levels of N.E.A.T than obese individuals. There are a couple possible explanations for this. One explanation is that obese individuals have a harder time moving around than leaner individuals, thus lowering their daily N.E.A.T. Another possible explanation suggests that lean individuals have higher levels of the hormone Orexin. Apparently, this hormone is responsible for sending signal to our brain to either increase or decrease N.E.A.T depending on the situation.
Tips for Boosting NEAT
Next time you’re headed to the second floor of the office, take the stairs! You don’t have to work very hard to hit the up button on the elevator. Taking the stairs is a great way to build up your leg strength while contributing to your daily NEAT. This task may not seem like a big deal at the time but those extra calories add up!
If you’re constantly on the phone for work, pace around while you talk. By simply going from sitting to standing you elevate your metabolism by as much as 15%! Pacing while on the phone isn’t something that you would think could make much of a difference. It turns out that it could boost your metabolism and allow you to burn an extra 100-200 calories!
Get extra steps in by parking further away from your destination! Parking in the far corner of the parking lot can add an extra 100 steps on your way in and way out. If you do that 5 days a week, that adds up to an extra 1,000 steps! If you do this everywhere you go then that number will skyrocket. This one simple change to your routine could have you walking an extra mile or two each week.
Fidgeting and other intentional movements have also been shown to add to your NEAT. Whether it’s shaking your leg, chewing gum, or playing with your pen, it will burn more calories than just sitting there. Start making it a habit to add extra fighting into your day. It may not make a difference overnight but it will add up over time, especially when added to all the other NEAT boosting tips!
Simply put, NEAT is all about doing a little extra. By now, you should understand how significant N.E.A.T is when it comes to weight loss. By simply getting up and being more active throughout the day, you can burn up to 2,000 more calories – a number that exercise alone cannot even compete with! Putting that into perspective, you could be burning an additional few pounds a week by making some of these changes. Remember, Rome wasn’t built over night. Weight loss is a marathon, not a sprint. Adding NEAT to your daily routine will surely help get results that you have been wanting for years!