The Importance of NEAT

The Importance of NEAT

What is NEAT?

NEAT stands for ‘Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenisis’ Or to put in simpler terms, the energy we use and the calories we burn for everything that is not sleeping, eating or sports/exercise. This ranges from energy expended walking to work, walking to the shops, cooking, cleaning the house and even as basic as fidgeting.

Well why is NEAT important?
Often as PTs we hear the phrases ‘I have a slow metabolism’ or ‘I only have to look at chocolate to gain weight’. Admittedly, yes sometimes metabolic problems can be an issue but more often than not, people who claim to have a slow metabolism do not have any metabolic problems, what they do have is a movement problem, well, a lack of movement.

‘But I exercise regularly and keep active all the time’ this may be true, but weight loss is a simple equation. Greater energy expenditure than energy consumption (calories) equates to weight loss AND VICE VERSA! Eat less and move more? Sounds simple, so where does NEAT come into play?

Your BMR plus thermic effects of food and NEAT equate to your daily energy requirement. BMR is your basal metabolic rate, the energy required for your body to function without any sort of activity, basically, how much energy your body needs for you to lie on the couch all day. Thermic effect of food is the energy required to digest food, yes we actually burn calories eating, sounds great. The rest of your energy is dependent on your daily activity levels, whether that be intentionally going to the gym or NEAT activities.

NEAT can actually play a huge role in weight management. For example, if a man has a BMR of around 1500 calories, he will burn around 200 calories digesting food and may burn anywhere from 100-600 calories more per day depending on his NEAT activities. Whether he has a full day; walking the dog, walking to the shops, playing with the kids or just sitting at a desk in an office somewhere.

We will also imagine our man didn’t participate in any intentional exercise that day, lets say he drove to work sat in an office and drove home, and thought I can’t be bothered exercising ‘maybe tomorrow’ so on the low end of the scale he will burn around 1800 calories on this given day as his NEAT is low. Now if he had walked to work, walked home, walked to the shops to buy something for tea and made a conscious effort to be on his feet more he may have burned an extra 400 calories that day without even doing any exercise (TAKING HIM TO 2200 CALORIES FOR THE DAY!) Now in modern day, eating 1800 calories per day is difficult by any means, with food readily available everywhere you look! Couple this with the low intentional activity and NEAT levels and you are looking at a rapidly expanding waist line!

‘But I do go to the gym everyday’ may again spring to mind, but think about this, the average calories burned in a typical hour of intentional exercise is 328 calories per 100lbs of body weight (an average at best, numerous factors can affect this) then consider if you go to the gym for an hour how much of that time are you resting, tying your shoe or taking a drink? You may go to the gym for an hour, but how much of that hour do you spend exercising?

Lets go back to our male friend who spends his life behind the desk at his office. Lets say he is 180lbs and does 1 hour in the gym but only exercises for 30 minutes of the hour he is there (Easily done) then he might only be burning 300 or so calories, or 3 fingers of a kit kat? Doesn’t sound like much does it?

Alongside this, it has been put forward that those of us who do exercise regularly often fall into the trap of consciously or unconsciously eating a little more to compensate the calories we have “burned” during our hour in the gym. Therefore, wasting any effort we may have put in. (you can’t workout then go home and say I’ve earned this takeaway “ive been the gym”)

So it is clear to see how NEAT can have a massive influence on your physique goals, simple exercise may not be enough, making a conscious effort to be more active outside the gym may be the secret to your success.

Conclusion – Creating a ‘Fast Metabolism’

It may be easy to lose sight of this information when we look at some of our friends who always seem to stay lean and slim with seamless effort. We often compare how much we eat, how much we work out, what wacky new diet we are trying and then blame genetics and slow metabolisms for why we do not see results.

What we miss is how active these friends are on a regular basis, have you considered how active their lifestyle is on a daily schedule? Do they have active jobs opposed to sitting at an office, these naturally thin friends may also workout on top of theor active lives, they don’t have a better metabolism they simply just move more. The daily expenditure of moving more and working out more adds up over time just as being sedentary and surplus calories can.

Miniscule differences in lifestyle can be the deciding factor, struggling with your weight? Maybe you don’t have a slow metabolism, maybe you just have to get out your office chair!

Easy Ways to Increase NEAT
So with all this information, you may be thinking, well how can I increase my NEAT, this sounds so simple, and it can be!

  1. WALKING MORE – walk to the shops, walk the dog, walk to work, it all adds up. A great tip to increase your steps is to simply park further away from your destination, even parking at the end of the carpark in a supermarket adds up! Buy a step counter if you can and try to hit 10’000 steps a day and watch the effect it has on your weight
  2. HOUSEWORK – stop putting off doing housework, hoovering, poilishing, mopping, it all helps, you may not realise it but as you clean you also burn calories, a clean house and weight loss? Yes please.
  3. ACTIVE AT WORK – Have an office job? Get up and walk round for at least 10 minutes an hour, walk to the rest room, walk to the water tank (hydration is also massive!) take the stairs instead of the elevator, stand at your desk rather than sit, walk to the shop at work, it all counts.
  4. AT SOCIAL EVENTS – stop sitting down at parties and events, circulate the room, be a social butterfly and talk to as many people as you can, and show off your new waistline, you may soon be the friend with the effortless physique that makes everyone jealous.

There we have it – NEAT – give it a try, you will not regret it.

Written by Jordan Winstanley. View Jordan’s profile here

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