What is NEAT?
Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is the energy your body uses to do everything other than sleep, eat, or formal exercise. In other words, it is the calories that are burned by the movements you make by going through your daily routine, not including those expended at the gym. There are a vast number of activities that fall into this category, including typing at a computer to walking around the grocery store to performing yard work. While some types of movement or activities you do during the day may not seem significant, NEAT can have a big impact on your metabolic rate and overall health.
The Benefits of NEAT
Research shows that incorporating more informal movement into your day – like biking to work or taking a phone call while walking around the block – could be a critical piece to the weight management puzzle and also help you stay more mobile, agile, and feel better overall. Higher levels of NEAT are also connected with lowered risk of metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular events. A study in 2018 showed that a low level of NEAT is associated with obesity, and that a higher level of this type of physical activity enhances lifestyle. People who report having a moderate-to-high level of activity throughout the day outside of formal exercise also report feeling more energetic and an improvement in mood versus when they experience days of low levels of physical activity. From disease prevention to feeling good both physically and mentally, it’s clear that NEAT is a useful tool.
Ways to Boost Your NEAT (and Still Be Productive)
- Consider taking your work meeting outside for a walk. Need to touch base with a colleague about an upcoming project? Making plans for the next quarter with your team? While not all meetings will allow for you to be away from your computer or desk, get creative about when you could take your meeting on your phone outdoors for some movement, or even invite your colleague to come with you to chat in person if you’re not working remotely.
- Try a standing desk. While the thought might seem impossible, many people have reaped the benefits of swapping their desk chair with a place to stand, some comfortable shoes, and an elevated desk. Standing is a great way to incorporate more NEAT into your day, and it doesn’t take you away from your desk while you work.
- Walk or bike to run nearby errands. Take an inventory of small errands you run on a weekly basis – can any of them be checked off with NEAT? Dropping off dry cleaning, stopping by the grocery store for a last-minute item, even picking your kids up from school could be the perfect opportunity to sneak in some extra movement or bonus steps.
- Don’t outsource all your housework. Which physical tasks around your house do you hire someone to do (or ask your partner to do)? Activities like pulling weeds, watering flowers, cooking dinner, and even vacuuming are tasks that many people outsource to others if they have the resources. But doing some of these yourself will help your body move functionally and burn energy, especially if your job leaves you sedentary most of the day.
- Play with your kids. Throw a ball, swing a bat, pull them up the sledding hill, have a dance party in the kitchen. Moving with your kids not only increases your own NEAT, which boosts your energy and wellbeing, it also gets them moving and boosts their own while setting an awesome example of an active lifestyle.
Whether you have a goal to lose body weight, prevent cardiovascular disease, or feel more energetic, NEAT could be your ticket to get there. Little choices and small steps taken repeatedly can add up to big achievements when it comes to your health. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to wellbeing – find what works for you and your health journey and stick to it!