What is NEAT?
Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is basically a fancy word for the amount of energy you spend moving around being active but which isn’t formal exercise. So your gym session or Group exercise class or morning run / swim = EAT, your walk to work, walk to the canteen to get a coffee, walk to the printer, time playing with your kids= NEAT
Benefits of NEAT
Generally we assume we burn a lot of calories exercising and then not much the rest of the time, but this is not necessarily the case. In fact, the amount of calories you can burn by being generally active throughout the day can have a big impact on your daily energy expenditure.
Think about it this way, if you already train regularly it may be difficult to increase your activity by adding extra sessions in. NEAT is often much easier to increase.
Equally, if your currently do little to no exercise increasing your NEAT is a more manageable first step to more movement and will still have a big impact on your health.
The importance of considering your NEAT when trying to lose weight has also been highlighted in studies, where it has been suggested that when you restrict your calorie intake to reach a deficit you can sometimes subconsciously reduce your non exercise movement to try and preserve energy, this in turn can mean you overestimate your deficit.
Therefore actively monitoring your NEAT can be highly beneficial.
I exercise a lot.
I train three to four times a week and teach around nine classes every week. I’m one of those people for whom increasing my training would be tough, and potentially have a negative on my sleep and mood.
So this month my coach has challenged me to increase my NEAT in the form of my steps, making sure I do at least 15,000 steps a day outside exercise. This will increase my activity levels in a more manageable way.
So how am I planning on doing this?
- I get the train into work but sometimes but sometimes a bus or lift from the station to the office, instead I’m walking from the station.
- Walking to people’s desks to go and speak to them rather than emailing
- Making more than my share of the team’s hot drinks
- Getting a 15/20 minutes walk in with an audio book whenever I am able to
These little things don’t take up much extra time but all add some extra steps to my day thus increasing my NEAT.
Some other ideas of ways you might be able to increase your NEAT:
1) Make a commitment to walk for an extra 10 minutes a day – However much walking you currently do either add in a ten minute walk or go the longer way home or leave the car for one short journey each day and walk instead.
2) Park further away – If you need to drive somewhere can you park a bit further away than normal- easily adds a few extra steps.
3) An active commute – Not for everyone but perhaps you can swap your drive for the train, cycling or walking into work. Even if you did that one day a week it would increase your NEAT.
4) Get moving on your breaks – Going for a walk instead of sitting in the staff room can be refreshing and reduce stress as well as increasing your daily steps.
5) Get a pedometer – Or smart watch. Having something record your steps lets you keep track of how active you actually are. It’s easy to think you’ve done more steps than you have so having a record might keep you accountable.
6) Take the stairs – Whenever possible. Easy steps (well not easy to climb but easy win).
7) Can you be both active and productive / active and social? – Can you change a drinks catch up to a catch up over a nice walk for instance? Combining something you would be doing anyway with a bit of extra activity means you don’t need to find extra time to increase your NEAT.
The key is to create small habits that you don’t even think about doing. A new route home, a parking space further away, always taking the stairs- once they are habits you barely notice you’re doing them. Little habits like this alone might not make a huge difference, but lots of small changes becoming habits can make a big difference to how active you are every day.