What’s your score on the NEAT scale? I don’t mean NEAT as in neat-and-tidy, or some sort scale measuring your coolness factor… NEAT stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis! What counts as NEAT are all the calories you burn from physical activity throughout the day, excluding “formal” workouts. I’m talking about activities like casual walking, shopping, yard work, housework, standing (vs sitting), and even little things like changing posture and fidgeting.
Walking contributes to the majority of NEAT. Obviously, if you have a job that keeps you bound to your desk, your NEAT level will be lower than if you deliver mail or have a similar type of job that keeps you moving all the time. For most of us, NEAT accounts for about 30% of our daily physical activity calorie burn but it can be as low as 15% in sedentary individuals! For people who are on-the-go and are highly active, NEAT can be as high as 50% of our daily calorie burn!
Dr. James Levine, an endocrinologist and the top researcher in the field says, “Obese people are profoundly more sedentary than lean people. They move 2.5 hours less per day than lean people, which means they burn roughly 350 fewer calories per day.” We all know that 350 kcal per day can really make a difference – when it’s added on or taken away!!
Do you still think that the calories burned outside of exercise (aka NEAT calories) don’t amount much difference overall? If you looked at the small picture – like simply taking the stairs today versus the elevator, you’d be right. Yikes – I’ve heard that recommendation so many times it’s become cliché! But here’s the BUT… When you take a big picture perspective, making a few small changes each day that become new daily habits, the benefits will accumulate over time and there really is a measurable difference.
You can implement a “NEAT strategy” by thinking about simple ways you can become more active and including them in your daily behavioral goals. Here are a few ideas to get you started…
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator – not a new concept, but do ever you do it?!
- Stand instead of sitting while on phone calls – that could add up to hours!!
- Get out from behind your desk and stretch on the hour – every hour
- Walk to the office of a co-worker you need to talk to rather than sending an email
- At home, don’t use labor saving devices all the time – (riding lawn mowers, snow blowers, golf carts…)
- Fire the gardener and cut back on the housekeeper! Do some of your own housework or yard work
- For short trips and running errands, walk or ride your bike instead driving
- Look for other opportunities to walk more (walk your dog… he’s been hoping you would!)
- Spend less leisure time online, playing games on your phone and watching TV. I’ve said it before…if you have time to Facebook, you have time to exercise!
- Watch less TV, but if you just can’t miss the Real Housewives, watch it on your elliptical! If you don’t have a cardio machine begging for use, assign a physical task (squats against the wall, planks…) to each commercial.
- If you have kids, get as much physical activity with them as possible.
- Be aware of how the seasons affect your activity levels and exercise… or lack thereof – It’s not just holiday food that causes winter weight gain!
For today’s challenge, you’re going to get your 10 minutes of activity from thinking outside the box when it comes to exercise. I want you to find 3 opportunities today when you choose an active alternative to something that’s usually not. For today, I also want you to have a visual of this… tally up 2 lists, one on each side of a page and take a good look at how your day weighs in on the NEAT scale.
On one side:
- mark down how many things you’re doing that add to your NEAT score and a rough estimate of the time taken on each thing.
On the other side: and BE HONEST…
- add up the time you spend sitting (add it all – commuting, sitting at your desk, watching TV…)
Until we chat tomorrow, I want to leave you with this… As much as I enjoy giving you tough exercise challenges and great group classes, it’s still important to make the important point that just because an activity isn’t high in intensity, doesn’t mean it doesn’t count. Low intensity exercise and active living day-to-day are still effective ways to beat fat over time (it just might take a little longer!). When you boil all this down…
Anything is better than sitting all day!