IMPROVE WEIGHT LOSS WITHOUT SPENDING MORE TIME AT THE GYM (NEAT)
SO, WHAT IS NEAT?
Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is all unplanned activity that accounts for a big portion of our energy expenditure.
Our bodies are always expending energy, even at rest. In general, for weight loss, we need to be burning more energy than we are consuming. Of course, there is more to weight loss, such as food quality, sleep, stress, etc.
Physical activity accounts for 15 – 30% of daily energy output and can be broken down into two categories; planned and unplanned. Planned activity is like going to the gym, playing a sport, or other activity. Unplanned energy expenditure (NEAT) are things such as walking from your car to the store, getting up from a chair, squatting down to pick something up, cooking, and even fidgeting. These unplanned activities are NEAT. Pretty neat huh?
IF YOU’RE EXERCISING EVERY DAY, YOU DON’T NEED TO INCREASE YOUR NEAT, RIGHT?
Not true, unfortunately. Exercising daily yet sitting at a desk all day is considered a sedentary lifestyle and connected to many negative health consequences.
Increasing your NEAT has physical health and endurance benefits. Weight loss is the main reason people usually focus on this. Activities that increase NEAT may seem insignificant, but it is the small things that make the biggest difference. All the minor ways you can increase your NEAT can add up to make a big change in your overall energy expenditure.
For example, if you start walking a small amount every day, you will increase your calorie expenditure. For example, if you burn an extra 100 calories per day, that is 700 calories per week which is around 2,800 calories per month. That is an extra 36,400 calories burned per year! If that was a 36,400-calorie deficit, then you could potentially lose 10 + pounds in a year simply by increasing your daily movement. Who wouldn’t want that?
OK, SO YOU’RE SOLD ON THE IDEA. WHAT ARE SOME IDEAS TO INCREASE YOUR NEAT?
- When you are on the phone, walk around.
- Take work meetings outside or around the office and walk at the same time.
- Use the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Set a timer for every hour to get up for 5-10 minutes.
- Use a standup or treadmill desk.
- Do some stretching during tv commercials.
- Take an evening walk with the family or spouse. Why not inspire others to become more active in the process?
There are tons of strategies out there, and a simple google search will bring up a lot.
If you have a way to track your progress, I highly recommend it. The easiest one for me is tracking my steps. You could spend one week tracking your steps without increasing anything. Then average out your steps for the week to use as a baseline. Every week you could set a daily or weekly goal. This goal could be as simple as adding 100 extra steps each week.
IF WE LOOK AT THE CENTENARIANS IN OKINAWA, JAPAN, WE CAN SEE SOME CLUES ABOUT WHY THEY LIVE SO LONG
There are many reasons scientists believe that Okinawans live so long. One of the big reasons is how active they are. They don’t go to the gyms to work out or do a spin class. They move around a lot. They do a lot of walking, gardening, and sit down on the ground instead of furniture, which means they have to squat up and down from the floor. These are all an example of NEAT. Pretty neat, huh? 🙂
HOW CAN HEALTHCARE PRACTITIONERS HELP PATIENTS INCREASE THEIR NEAT?
Many conditions I see in my patients can be improved through better health such as increasing their NEAT and losing weight. While it may not be appropriate or safe for all patients, it can help most. I recommend they get a doctor’s approval first.
I believe the easiest thing to teach a patient is to use a pedometer, their smartwatch, or a fitness tracker to track steps. We can suggest easy goals such as 50 extra steps per day or even as easy as 100 extra steps each week. Anything in the positive direction will benefit them and help boost their confidence with physical activity. Asking a patient to start going to the gym every day once they are home can be daunting. Baby steps is my motto. One good idea is a reward system that the patient sets up at home. Perhaps you or your facility can reward them with something. One idea the healthcare practitioner could do is write a congratulations card and compliment them on their progress. Often times, a personal and thoughtful card can be the best reward of all.
I would love to encourage you to pick one way you will increase your NEAT, set a daily or weekly goal, and tell me how you are going to track it. Share this in the comments below and let’s cheer each other on. We can also learn from each other and find some new ideas.