NEAT: What is Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis?

by Matt Weik

Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is simply the calories we burn from doing day-to-day tasks like shopping for groceries and cleaning the house. It is important because it can help us better manage our weight without even going to the gym.

Now, it should be noted that NEAT is not a replacement for exercise. Unless you are extremely active throughout the day or work a very strenuous and laborious job every day, you’re still going to need to find time to work out.

What is NEAT?

Non-exercise activity thermogenesis is the amount of energy that is spent for all physical activities that do not include eating, sleeping, and actual workouts/exercise.

NEAT includes fidgeting and maintaining posture while sitting or standing. Energy used for housekeeping activities such as vacuuming and mowing lawn is also considered non-exercise activity thermogenesis. The overall calories that you burn the entire day are known as Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). It is a total of your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate), TEPA (Thermic Effect of Physical Activity), and TEF (Thermic Effect of Food).

What Makes Up Your Total Calories Burned Each Day?

• Basal Metabolic Rate: It is the amount of energy our body uses to support the functions of our physiological systems and organs and comprises around 60-75% of TDEE. The three main organs responsible for burning calories at rest are the brain, liver, and skeletal muscle — which burn 19, 27, and 18 percent of the RMR (approximately).

• Thermic Effect of Physical Activity: The Thermic Effect of Physical Activity (TEPA), also called Thermic Effect of Exercise (TEE), refers to the amount of energy expended from any physical activity or exercise. It measures the amount of heat produced due to physical activity, and this heat is converted into mechanical energy rather than thermal energy.

• Thermic Effect of Food: It is the energy our body uses to convert food into a usable energy source or to move it somewhere to be stored as body fat. If stored, it can be used at a later time, and it comprises around 10% of daily energy expenditure.

How Many Calories Can Be Burned Through NEAT?

How many calories can be burned through NEAT varies from person to person. According to a 2014 study, the number of calories burned from non-exercise activity thermogenesis differs by almost 2,000 kcal a day between two people of similar size. Many factors account for this variation, including genetics and the environment.

NEAT can be influenced by your style of living as well as your job. Two individuals having similar BMIs but different jobs (sedentary versus active) might burn completely different calorie amounts.

How Can Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis Help Improve Health?

NEAT is said to be one of the ways that our body can better manage our weight. If our weight increases, NEAT tends to rise. On the other hand, if we lose weight, NEAT tends to decrease, and people end up sitting more without much movement. According to NEAT researcher James Levine, “We may come to appreciate that spontaneous physical activity is not spontaneous at all but carefully programmed.”

According to research, the benefits of NEAT run deeper than merely the extra calories expended.

Here are some ways to use NEAT for additional weight loss and weight management benefits.

1. NEAT at Work

If you are working from home, you may be less active as not much energy is being expended while doing work. If you’re in an actual office setting, you can get up and walk down the halls to speak with co-workers or walk throughout the building for meetings. In your home, you’ll end up taking fewer steps. But sure, working from home may feel refreshing, as well as save you the gas money. Try doing the following at work:

• Stand more often while at work. By switching to a standing desk from a sitting desk, you may burn an additional 400 calories per day.
• Take the stairs whenever possible instead of the elevator.
• If you have a message to deliver to your co-worker, walk over to their desk rather than sending an email or calling them.
• Make an effort to stretch for at least 5 minutes every hour.

2. NEAT at Home

Just because you’re at home doesn’t mean you should just put your feet up and relax. Chilling at your place does not always have to be lying on the couch and watching Netflix. There are many other things you can do such as:

• While you watch your favorite television or Netflix series, organize the laundry pile, or maybe do some cleaning.
• Wash your car by hand instead of taking it to the carwash.
• Do some gardening or yard work outside that needs to be completed.

3. NEAT with Family

If you have kids, you can easily add movement to your daily life. Let be honest, chasing the kids around the house and playing can be just as exhausting as a workout, and you don’t even need a gym membership for that! Try some of these things at home to increase your NEAT:

• Walk with your kids to school or the bus stop.
• If they are active in athletics, pace the sidelines and cheer them instead of sitting in the stands or a foldable chair.
• Play around with your kids at the park or in your backyard.

4. NEAT with Pets

Here is a bonus! Do you have a dog? If you have a dog, you can really increase your daily NEAT. Try the following:

• Play with your pet dog at the park.
• Grab some toys and play with your dog around the house.
• Find a ball or frisbee and toss it in your backyard with your dog.

Incorporate more NEAT into your daily life and experience how it can help you better maintain and lose weight without much effort at all. Now granted, this isn’t a quick change where you’re going to lose a bunch of weight in a week. This is a long process that will reap the rewards over time. Just don’t give up and become a couch potato if you don’t see results right away!

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