What is NEAT?

NEAT stands for non-exercise activity thermogenesis.

What does that mean?

NEAT is all the calories you burn throughout the day carrying out activities you wouldn’t class as typical exercise. These include things such as walking, doing the housework, working or even fidgeting.

The life of the modern human isn’t very strenuous. Most people sit down for a large portion of the day, whether that’s in a car or at an office desk and then lay horizontal for the remaining 8 hours. This may not come as a surprise but that doesn’t burn a large number of calories. We are slowly turning into sloths, preserving every last piece of energy. Unfortunately this energy is being stored in our body as fat.

A lot of this isn’t our fault. Everything around us is being designed to make our lives easier. This includes things such as escalators, phones, cars and even chairs. Humans are designed to take the easiest route and if given the opportunity, we will do it.



How will NEAT help me lose fat?

NEAT plays a huge factor in the fight against that pesky body fat!

The only way to lose fat is to put yourself in a calorie deficit. (I cover it in more detail here if interested). If you are controlling your food intake by tracking calories along with eating high quality foods, then it only leaves one part of the equation left. And that is calories out.

The calories we burn throughout the day are made up of several things, but one of the biggest is NEAT. If we can increase the calories we burn from just taking the stairs and consciously moving a little more, we can then spend more time doing activities we enjoy.

I know you are probably thinking “I am very active, I train in the gym 5 times a week”. Whilst that hour in the gym is still important, you have another 15 hours (minus 8 from sleeping) to use as extra time to be burning calories.




What happens to NEAT when in a calorie deficit?

As your body is a clever little bugger, it doesn’t like change. It does everything in its power to remain the same. This is called homoeostasis. As you put yourself in a calorie deficit (by reducing calories and reducing exercise) your body makes other changes to hold onto what it has. These changes take the form of reduced metabolic rate and reduced NEAT. One study  shows that NEAT reduced by up to 45% from that group that was severely restricted from food. What this means for us is that by being aware of these changes we can fight against them. Instead of slowly turning into a sloth we can get our arses into gear and get moving!

Top tips to increase NEAT

  1. Make time for extra NEAT activities. Don’t expect to burn extra calories magically, set time aside in your day to make it happen. For example if you an office bound sloth like most of us, then be sure to get up and go for a lunchtime walk around the block. This will not only burn calories but clear your mind of the usual work stresses.
  2. Take the long cut – Most of the time we are looking for the shortest route or the quickest way to get somewhere. Taking the long cut is the opposite. Take the long way round. The scenic route. Make sure you leave with plenty of time, otherwise you will be late everywhere.
  3. Take the stairs – This is a simple one and so easily implemented. It amazes the amount of people I see taking the lift up to first floor. Unless you are physically unable, then you should be taking the stairs.
  4. Dance more – Much to my neighbours disgust, I have been known to bust a few moves around the house. You don’t get this good at dancing by accident. I would like to take this opportunity to apologise to my neighbours. I have now started closing the curtains, or at least putting a towel on after the shower. Sorry.
  5. Refrain from email – If you are in the same office as someone, make an effort to go and speak to that person instead of playing email ping pong. It will not only get you up walking but will build relationships and save time.
  6. Be creative – Find fun ways for you and the family to make little tasks around the house more fun and more energetic. Instead of sitting on the sofa watching TV, play a game like charades that involves moving around.


Take home

  • Make time to move. Fit it in your schedule
  • All the little bits of exercise add up to a huge amount
  • Enjoy it! Have fun in the process