One of my favorite take home messages from the ACSM (my certifying body: American College of Sports Medicine) was about Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis or NEAT. NEAT is the energy utilized (calories burned) to do all activities during our waking hours except eating or deliberate exercise. It includes the calories burned in yard work, house cleaning, gardening, even fidgeting. Studies show that over the past 50 years caloric intake has actually DECREASED, yet somehow we find ourselves in a trend of increasing rates of overweight and obesity (and it’s subsequent health complications) in this country.
What the heck is happening?
In a nutshell, there’s been a massive decrease in our NEAT. Due to the industrial revolution and advances in technology we have less physically demanding occupations we are burning far less calories at rest than we have in the past. We drive to work (sit), get into our offices (sit), go to meetings (sit), drive home (sit), and watch tv or read to relax (sit). We have also gotten more efficient; a good number of occupations are off-site or remote-based and we’re sitting perhaps more than we would in a regular office setting. Or, even more basic, most of us are no longer hand scrubbing laundry and hanging it out to dry on the line. So, what can we do to get our NEAT back?
How Jessica got her NEAT back…
So, a few years ago, I went from being a very busy weight loss consultant seeing clients every 15 minutes for 8 hours with little time to sit, to a less busy small business owner working on my computer A LOT. Client meetings, marketing, writing, exercise programming, meal planning, research, continuing education, etc. definitely took up a fair amount of my day. I quickly realized 2 things: 1) the scale was changing in a direction I didn’t care for, and 2) I was eating and exercising the EXACT same way I had been. Actually, I was working out MORE because at that time I was working out with each of my clients. What happened? Sitting happened! I had completely taken for granted the calories that I burned being on my feet and seeing people all day long! (Side note: my previous employer did say she was going to bring this up at the staff meeting as an added benefit for working there; particularly during the CRAZY times when morale was low. I’m not sure what happened with that or how it was received by the staff at the time…)
This chick got her NEAT back by making client meetings short and sweet or mobile- I would go for walks while on the phone with an initial client, or in person. I made an effort to get up and move when I could: standing when doing computer work (as I am now!) climbing stairs, taking 20 minute walks, getting out for a hike in the middle of the day with a friend versus lunch. I continued to avoid close parking spots at businesses. Or better yet, I’d avoid driving at all, choosing to bike or walk everywhere I could safely go. I also increased my weight lifting; increased muscle mass is another way to up your NEAT factor.
So, to up your NEAT-ness what will you do? The key is being CONSISTENT! Here are some great ideas to put into action TODAY to up your game:
- Park farther away from the doors to public places.
- Stand up and take several brisk walks around your home and/or office multiple times a day.
- Vow to ALWAYS take the stairs. Also, instead of asking a loved one to grab something for you from upstairs, get it yourself; multiple trips=more NEAT
- Schedule walking meetings- they’ve been proven to be more productive-plus, you get these added benefits: increased oxygen to the brain, more clarity of thought, and you get vitamin D…everyone wins!
- Get a standing desk! Better yet…a treadmill desk!
- Do some jumping jacks, lunges, squats and push ups while waiting for the coffee maker, copier/printer, or that email to send.
- Bike or walk to wherever you’re going versus drive.
- Start a new routine of going for a walk after meals, especially dinner! The days are getting longer and the weather has been beautiful…enjoy it with your loved ones.
Take care of yourselves and others and get a little (or a lot) sweaty today! See you soon…