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What is N.E.A.T. and How Do You Get It?

Have you heard people talking about increasing their N.E.A.T.? Well, that stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. To put it more simply, NEAT is really everything we do other than sleeping, eating, and exercising. Everything from cooking dinner to washing your face falls in this category.

The reason why NEAT is something to talk about is because the amount of NEAT you have in your life can have a dramatic impact on weight loss as well as overall health. And as technology improves, people are getting less and less of it. Imagine someone who gets up in morning, drives in to work, sits at a desk all day, hits up a drive through for dinner, and then spends the night on the couch watching TV. Now, imagine someone who gets up in the morning, walks their dog, bikes into work, works at a stand-up desk, cooks a nice dinner after work, takes a walk after dinner, and then straightens up the house. Who do you think has more NEAT? That second person could be burning an additional 350 calories a day just from having more non-exercise activity!

Let’s look at how NEAT fits into the big picture of weight loss. When we talk about burning calories, the three main contributors are your basal metabolic rate (or how much your body burns at rest), the thermic effect of food (or how much your body burns through digestion), and activity Thermogenesis (or how much your body burns during activity). This activity thermogenesis can be through exercise or non-exercise activity.

Looking at these factors in burning calories, your basal metabolic rate and the thermic effect of food are things you have little control over. And there is only so much time in the day for exercise. So, what’s left? NEAT!

NEAT is something you can easily incorporate into your daily routine without have to find a lot of extra time. And, it has additional health benefits such as reducing insulin sensitivity and diabetes risk, increasing strength and flexibility, and supporting posture and bone health.

So, how do you get more NEAT? Well, I’m sure you’ve hear the ideas of taking the stairs instead of the elevator and parking further away in the parking lot. These are some great ways to increase your NEAT. But here are some other options to consider:

Ways to Stand/Walk More:

• Talk all phone calls standing up and/or pacing

• Walk around your couch during commercial breaks

• Consider getting a standing desk if you are often desk-bound

• Suggest stand-up or walking meetings, instead of sitting meetings

• Fold the laundry on a counter top instead of sitting

Ways to get more Sitting NEAT:

• Bike to work one or two days a week

• Fidget!- bounce your legs, wiggle your feet, tap your hands, move in your seat

• Sit on a stability ball at your desk, dining table, or in front of the TV

• Raise your heels and engage your calves while sitting

• Keep some light weights by the couch and lift them during commercials

Other NEAT ideas:

• Take regular bathroom/water breaks at work

• Stretch for a few minutes several times a day

• Put music on and dance while washing dishes, cleaning, etc

• Do Pedometer challenges with friends, spouses, coworkers, etc

Look through the above list and pick one or two things to focus on for the next couple of weeks. Once they feel comfortable, maybe look at incorporating another. There’s no such thing as too much NEAT in your life!

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Dr. Candice Seti


California-licensed Clinical Psychologist, Certified Nutrition Coach, and Certified Personal Trainer

Dr. Candice Seti

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