In this fourth in our series of articles on exercising and the contribution this might make towards weight loss or not we are going to look at NEAT – Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. Bruce Lee, the martial arts expert and movie star, pioneered the art of fighting without fighting and NEAT is the art of exercising without exercising. Does it sound too good to be true? Well read on.
In The Myth of Exercise we pondered the heretical notion that exercise contributes little to weight loss and provided some evidence to support this theory but as ever, here at Waetugo, we aim to dig a little deeper and offer up a little more information for you to play with as you will.
So what is NEAT? In his papers, J, Levine identifies NEAT as the energy we expend when doing anything that is not eating, sleeping or doing sports like exercises. We highly recommend reading these two papers in their entirety. NEAT activities cover a massive range of movements such as gardening, strolling, shuffling about, cleaning, cooking and even writing this article. All activity raises our metabolic rate even if only a little. It may be the case however that the amount of thermogenesis, energy burned, differs greatly from person to person but this cannot be a reason to cry foul and lie back on the couch. NEAT is the way forward when looking for steady and continuous ways to burn calories throughout the day, all day, every day – to get the metabolic rate up for longer.
Levine identifies people who are obese as being inactive for about 2.5 hours a day more than non obese counterparts and posits that changing this sitting around for non exercise activities such as those mentioned above can burn as many as 350 extra calories a day. Add those up over a year. Actually we’ll do it for you. It’s 127,750 over the twelve months. And no gym visits or football matches necessary. No ocean rowing or mountain marathons involved. Just standing up and walking the dog, mowing the lawn or even typing at a standing desk. NEAT is genuinely the way forward.
Here at Waetugo we conducted a small experiment of our own last year. One of our staff performed a series of four lectures each lasting about 3.5 hours long with a couple of short coffee breaks. During these lectures he did nothing different to a normal lecture expect wearing a Fitbit tracker. Over the course of the four lectures he walked an average of of 4000 steps. He wasn’t trying to walk far and he certainly wasn’t thinking about exercising. When asked after the first one if he had been aware of the amount of steps he had gotten in he was amazed having thought he had stood still most of the time. Sure, if he’d been walking for over 3 hours he most certainly would have scored more steps but this is the essence of NEAT – staying off the sofa or your desk chair and raising the activity levels without really trying. When we are doing this day after day the benefits start to stack up.
Below are 5 neat ways to increase NEAT.
1 Shop Local – Consider picking up a few groceries from local shops rather than the out of town supermarkets. No need to overdo it and buy a camel to carry everything but popping up the road a couple of times a day for a loaf or a bottle of milk will mean more walking with some light carrying. Two trips up to the corner shop means more steps and fewer sitting minutes.
2 Exercise Ball – If you have to sit down for an hour to watch your favourite show (Billions anyone?) then watch it on an exercise ball. The benefits to your core stability are well reported from exercise ball sitting and adding in a little bounce means more activity.
3 Gardening – Mow the grass more often. Do a little weeding by hand rather than spraying everything with liquid death and get hedge proud. One of our staff here at Waetugo used to be a gardener by trade and says regular mowing makes the job easier and hedge trimming frequently means it is easier done with hand shears than heavy petrol or electric trimmers. Not just NEAT but an upper body workout.
4 Clean the Car – Switch of the laptop, iPads and smart phones, forget the social media updating or the daytime TV and fill a bucket with some suds, grab a sponge and spruce up your pride and joy. Involves a bit of stretching too.
5 An Oldie but a Goodie – Travel shorter distances and get off the bus, train or tube a stop or two earlier. Walk a whole journey even if you have to get up earlier or cycle on the sunny days.
NEAT really is neat. If we had to summarize it really quickly it is little more than sitting less and moving more leading to healthier, longer lives and possibly trimmer bodies. It doesn’t get much easier than NEAT.