Whether you’re just starting out on your weight-loss journey or have the last (and hardest!) 10 pounds to go, I’m sure you’d love to find a way to burn additional calories without spending extra time in the gym or cutting more calories from your diet. Well, you’re in luck! A little thing called non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) can help increase your metabolism and burn extra calories—and you don’t even have to break a sweat to do it.
Non-energy activity thermogenesis is simply the energy you expend performing daily activities beyond sleeping, eating, and exercise. From walking to work to pulling weeds in the yard to typing on your computer (which means I’m burning calories right now—sweet!), every move we make requires energy, which comes from (read: burns) calories. According to this article, you burn about 1.5 calories just lying still! While that’s hardly enough to cancel out the doughnut you had at this morning’s office meeting, all of those small movements add up at the end of the day and could account for 30 to 50 percent of your physical activity calories spent for the day. Neat, right? (I’m a sucker for puns!) We have Dr. James Levin to thank for his research and findings on non-exercise activity thermogenesis. Through his research he concluded that:
“NEAT is far more important for calorie-burning than exercise in nearly everyone.”
What it basically comes down to is moving more than you currently do when you’re not exercising. That means spending less time sitting at your desk or vegging out in front of the TV at night; it doesn’t mean you have to quit your day job or give up your Netflix subscription to “Orange Is the New Black.” All you have to do is start thinking of ways to add some movement to these parts of your daily routine, as well as other moments throughout your day. And like any habit, it’s important to incorporate these new bits of movement into your daily routine on a regular basis so that they become more natural and you perform them without even thinking about it.
Here are some NEAT ways to add more movement to your daily routine, starting from when you wake up to right before you go to bed:
In the morning:
1. Tap your foot, march in place, or step side to side while you brush your teeth.
2. Do a couple squats while you wait for your coffee to brew (or your oatmeal to cook, or your hot water for tea to boil, etc.)
3. Park your car at the far end of the parking lot or get off the subway or bus at an earlier stop to add more steps to your day.
4. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator whenever possible.
5. Pace back and forth whenever you’re on the phone (both at the office and at home).
6. Stand up and stretch every time you send an email or text message.
7. Tap your foot when sitting at your desk.
8. Get up every 30 minutes (or at least once every hour) and walk around your office, refill your water bottle, or go to the rest room.
9. Wash, dry, and put away the dishes instead of loading them in the dishwasher (or leaving them for someone else to do!)
10. If you have a downstairs and upstairs bathroom in your house, always use the one in the opposite location of where you currently are (i.e., use the main floor powder room when you’re upstairs and use the master bathroom when you’re downstairs).
11. When grocery shopping, leave the cart in the store at the end of your trip and carry your bags to the car if you only have a small amount. When you get home, carry one bag in at a time so that you have to make multiple trips back and forth from the car to your house. (Up the calorie burn even more by performing biceps curls as you carry the bags into the house.)
12. When watching TV at night, get up and walk around during commercial breaks or perform a few exercises like crunches, squats, biceps curls (keep dumbbells by the couch), or triceps dips.
13. When sitting, perform heel raises or sit on a stability ball instead of a chair or the couch to strengthen your lower legs or core—and, of course, burn extra calories.
14. Turn on your favorite tunes and dance while you clean or get ready to go out.
15. Again, tap your foot, march in place, or step side to side while you brush your teeth.
16. Perform a few calf raises before getting into bed.
17. When reading (or Facebook stalking) in bed at night, tap your feet.
All of these movements will add up at the end of the day, and more importantly, over time. If you keep your calories and exercise routine the same, the calories you burn through NEAT could help you lose weight, maintain your weight, or stop gaining weight, depending on your goals. To help you stay focused and motivated to move more, consider buying a pedometer or fitness tracker, like the Fitbit.
Do you have any NEAT strategies for moving more?