Most people believe that in order to lose weight, they need to begin running or going to the gym each day. But did you know that general activity is actually a bigger dial-mover than your cardio session? More specifically, this is known as NEAT. NEAT stands for non-exercise activity thermogenesis, which refers to the activity you do throughout the day that creates a calorie burn without you even realizing it. Some examples include taking the stairs at work, playing with your kids, doing chores around the house, standing vs. sitting, and even fidgeting. Studies have shown that NEAT is a big contributor to a lower body mass, improves blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels, and decreases stress hormones, which positively affects fat loss.
When I’m working with patients who want to create a healthier lifestyle, we always talk about how to incorporate more NEAT into their days. A simple way to achieve this is to aim for some extra steps. If you keep track of steps, a great goal is 10,000/day, but if you don’t, then aim for an extra 30 min of NEAT/day, and this can be broken up as well.
Here are some ideas:
- If you have a desk job, try to get up every hour and walk around for 5 min. Not only is this a great way to get in some NEAT, but it’s also a great brain break and you might find you’re actually more productive afterward!
- Take a 15 min stroll after lunch, work, or dinner. I find a quick walk after lunch helps give me energy for my afternoon, a walk after work helps relieve stress after a big day, and a walk after dinner with my husband is a great way to catch up at the end of the day.
- Instead of scheduling a coffee date with a friend, schedule a walk with them.
- Move with your kids after school. Family movement time is our favorite, and you can often find us outside together on the farm, at our local student recreation center, or going for a family walk to burn off some energy after a long day of sitting at school.
- Stop your scroll and move instead – When exhausted, it’s easy to tune out in front of a screen. Sometimes moving is the last thing we feel like doing. But I’m always surprised by how much better I feel when I put the phone away and move for 15 minutes for a mental break instead.
There are a lot of ways you can get in more NEAT, but I find that with a little intentionality, it can be an easy win and a great step forward in achieving an active, healthier lifestyle.