To optimize health and/or reach weight loss goals, there are important lifestyle factors that must be capitalized on. Most people know that a healthy diet and exercise are important. So you’re checking the boxes by exercising 1-2 hours per day, sleeping 8 hours per night, and eating relatively healthy. But that leaves 15 other hours unaccounted for in the day. How are you spending those 15 hours? Unfortunately, modern lifestyles, consisting of desk jobs and long commutes, make those 15 hours very sedentary for most people.
An often neglected factor for health is NEAT, or Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis and could aid in counteracting the sedentary nature of the modern world. NEAT, defined by the NASM is “the energy expended for everything we do that does not include sleeping, eating, or exercise; and ranges from simple things like standing and fidgeting to moving about.” Below we will discuss what NEAT is and some easy ways to adopt it into your lifestyle.
What is NEAT?
NEAT is one of the variables that contributes to our TDEE, or total daily energy expenditure. All TDEE means is the amount of calories you burn in a day and 4 major factors contribute to this daily calorie burn. The following equation gives the breakdown of TDEE:
TDEE = BMR + TEF + EAT + NEAT
BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate): This is the amount of calories burned just to keep you alive. This does not include things like digestion or physical activity and varies based upon factors such as muscle mass and genetics. BMR makes up the biggest component of your TDEE at around 60-70%.
TEF (Thermic Effect of Food): This is the amount of calories burned upon breakdown and digestion of the food you consume. This number can vary slightly depending on the macronutrient composition of your diet. For example, protein requires more energy to digest than carbohydrates and fat. TEF accounts for roughly 10% of TDEE.
EAT (Exercise Activity Thermogenesis): This is the amount of calories burned through the intentional exercise an individual does. EAT would encompass all the “physical activity” we typically refer to such as running, yoga, sports, weightlifting, surfing, or CrossFit. It is challenging to put a percentage on EAT because of how variable physical activity is amongst the population.
NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis): NEAT is the number of calories burned during daily activities and movement that aren’t structured or intentional exercise. NEAT can be affected by environmental factors such as occupation. For example, a waitress or construction worker will inherently have a higher NEAT than someone with a desk job long commute. Like EAT, NEAT is hard to quantify because of its high variability amongst individuals.
Ways to NEAT:
Regardless of your occupation, environment, or biology, there is always a way to increase your daily NEAT; it just may require some intentionality. Outlined below are a few strategies to increase your NEAT:
Walk or take the stairs
Carry a basket instead of pushing a cart in the grocery store
The trend of standing desks is no joke! For example, NASM reports that “a 145 lb. person burns approximately 102 calories an hour while performing their office job in a seated position (1.7 kcal / minute) but burns 174 calories an hour if performing those same office duties while standing.”
Yard work, cleaning, even chopping vegetables fall under the NEAT umbrella.
Drink More Water
Staying hydrated is important for overall health and is also a subtle way to increase your NEAT, as you will be required to take more trips to the restroom!
This could be playing an instrument, playing with your kids, or throwing the ball for your pet!
Here at Prime, we are big advocates for an active lifestyle. However, this does not (and should not) mean killing yourself in the gym each day, which is why we love NEAT. We believe NEAT is an often underutilized tool for reaching weight loss goals, improving overall wellbeing, and even recovering from injury. Need more ideas for how to incorporate NEAT into your lifestyle? Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org today to set up an initial consultation.