Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating, or sports-like exercise. It ranges from the energy expended walking to work, typing, performing yard work, undertaking agricultural tasks to painting and doing house work.
You’re thinking to yourself, “Hey Courtney, now you are on to something! I can lose weight without busting my butt at the gym!”
Well, yes and no.
I hate to ruin the dream for you but whether you like it or not, your body needs movement. Physical activity is an integral part of health and wellness and is defined as anything that gets your body moving. The key is to incorporate movement that doesn’t make you want to throw up and you can still see the results in your health. That’s what non-exercise activity thermogenesis or N.E.A.T. is all about.
Prioritizing physical activity is an act of self-love and self-care. It is also bio-individual, which means, what works for you, may not work for someone else. It also means you can create more space for movement in a way that feels natural, authentic, and enjoyable for you and adds to your overall quality of life. By carving out time to move your body, you’re giving yourself the gift of energy, focus, and strength. Your approach can be whatever works for you, and it will change and evolve over time.
The World Health Organization defines physical activity as “any bodily movement produced by the skeletal muscles that requires expenditure.” In other words, any type of movement counts and that’s why I love N.E.A.T!
The benefits of physical activity are most effective when exercise is unstructured and incorporated into daily life. There are many ways to increase N.E.A.T, including walking, gardening, dancing around the kitchen, stretching while watching television, cleaning, and even fidgeting!
The beauty of N.E.A.T is that it doesn’t require adding more time to your day; you can squeeze in small amounts of movement anytime, anyplace.
Here are some N.E.A.T. ideas you can incorporate into your day:
Start your day with 5–10 minutes of stretching or yoga.
Stretch as you watch TV or work on your computer.
Try seated stretches at your desk.
Take two-minute stretch breaks throughout your day.
Set a target step goal using a pedometer, smartphone, or smartwatch.
Park a little farther away from store entrances or get off the subway or bus one stop early.
Have walking meetings or consider your lunch a “movement break.”
Stroll around your apartment or office space while talking on the phone. (This can also promote creative thinking!)
Try a ball chair, which forces you to use your core and practice your posture.
Do squats, lunges, or even a plank or two during commercials and do calf raises while brushing your teeth or waiting in line.
Break up the sitting when traveling. On an airplane or bus, stand up every hour or so. If driving, take more pit stops than you might normally take.
Have dance parties – or dance breaks!
There are plenty of activities around the house where the concept of N.E.A.T. applies.
You’ve been working out all this time and didn’t even know it! Isn’t it time you got some credit for doing these things!
Here are a few more that may result in "ah ha" moments:
Gardening and Raking Leaves
Have you ever come in from an afternoon of weeding, landscaping, and raking leaves feeling like you’ve gone 10 rounds with Mike Tyson? Well, you’ve just experienced N.E.A.T. in action. When someone says yardwork isn’t that hard, have them tell that to your aching back! LOL
Now, laundry is just an endurance sport. It’s always there. Lifting baskets and piles, up and down hallways and stairs. Don’t get me started on folding and putting away. And, as long as you have a family wearing clothes or you’re a clothes horse yourself, you’ll be doing laundry. Feel the burn!
Let’s just knock out this room and get back to our lives, NOT! At least 20 minutes into any painting job you are reevaluating all your life decisions. Painting is a combination of Pilates, Yoga, and strength training all wrapped into one muscle contouring adventure. Do I hear N.E.A.T. chuckling off in the distance…?
Park far away from the entrance and walk to get the party started. Then, spend your time reaching up to the very highest shelves or bending so far over you get lightheaded because that’s where all the stuff you need is. Oh, and it’s heavy. Load the chart up and them begin to push it around like a participant in a Strong Man competition and bang! There’s the N.E.A.T workout. The good news is you burned off the muffin you ate while shopping, so it no longer counts.
Walking the Dog
Well, this just about says it all. The dog must go out and who’s taking him? You. Every walk with the dog is another opportunity to move your body and all movement counts.
Washing the Car
It looks so easy, doesn’t it? Grab the hose, get a bucket, fill it with water and scrub. As with painting, about 15 minutes into it you wish you had just bought the car wash with your last fill up! There’s a reason Mr. Miyagi had Daniel practicing that “wax on, wax off” move. It’s brutal. Lifting the bucket and dragging that hose doesn’t make it any better either. The car is clean, you’re on the couch.
Playing with Your Kids
If you have them, you know a day spent with kids is easily a 10,000 step without even leaving the house. Kids have so much energy and a day spent hanging out with them doing fun things can be off the charts in terms of movement. Biking, hiking, swimming, hide and go seek, Nerf wars, they never stop moving so neither do you. It’s a mutual bonding workout experience so embrace every second of it. You’ll never have to wish you were working out if you’re having a day with your kids, you already are.
The benefits of N.E.A.T.
Studies have shown that engaging in N.E.A.T. supports longevity and weight management. It’s not the key but’s role is undeniable. Seniors that like to “keep busy” are doing this instinctively and doing themselves a huge favor in the process.
N.E.A.T. should be a part of your overall movement program. Some people love going to the gym every morning, some love group fitness classes, and some prefer solo yoga or nature runs. Finding physical activities you enjoy and moving with integrity supports an empowered mind-set and keeps you motivated and engaged. However, during those recovery periods, N.E.A.T. is still hard at work for you.
N.E.A.T and Alignment
In the end, moving with integrity means being mindful of how you move (as well as sit and stand) throughout the day. It’s easy to disassociate from your body, especially if you’re focused on the task at hand.
Alignment is a foundation of functional movement that you can practice throughout your day, no matter where you are or what you’re doing: sitting, standing, or moving. Awareness is the first step, and that alone can lead to significant shifts.
Check in throughout the day: Are you sitting slumped over a computer? Do you spend a lot of time looking down at your phone? Are you taking standing breaks and practicing your posture? The combination of N.E.A.T and Alignment go beyond your typical work to support your overall health and movement.
I’ll bet you never look at laundry, washing the car, or yardwork the same way ever again!
Are you limited right now in your ability to be physical? There are so many options available to keep you moving. Book a complimentary consultation call to learn how to get your body moving and be Better4U and Better4All!
Leave a comment, share this post, get out and move (a little bit!)
Take care and be well,
Integrative Nutrition Health Coach