NEAT: Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis


by Brent Haydey



Do you know what NEAT activities are? Well, first let me ask you this. Are you inherently active or sedentary?  This isn’t a right or wrong answer.  It simply is the way you’ve come to act when a choice between the two is to be made, usually very unconsciously.  So which is it?  Active or sedentary.  Let me give you a few examples.

NEATDo you find it hard to stay seated for any length of time, preferring to get up and move?

Do you drive round and round waiting for that parking spot to open up close to the shopping centre entrance rather than walk from the ample space across the lot?

Do you wait for the elevator to go to the second floor of your apartment even though you could easily walk up?

There are endless examples but generally speaking you have a tendency towards one or the other and because of that when decisions are to be made more often than not you choose your default.

Choose NEAT If You Are Unconsciously Sedentary

If your default is the sedentary or passive route and you have a goal to release weight to look and feel better or to generally be healthier you may want to begin to shift your old pattern to a more active one, 23/7.  The following passage comes from the Nutrition News Focus and sheds some light on the importance of your level of activity 23/7.  That’s the other 23 hours of the day when you are not doing the one hour of exercise recommended daily by pretty much every exercise professional out there.

“Next time an annoying acquaintance can’t sit still, don’t get upset. Fidgeting may be a natural defense against gaining weight.  A fascinating study from the Mayo Clinic that was just a blip in the general news media reported that the cause for the big variability in weight gain as a result of overeating had been found.  Sixteen normal weight young adults were fed 1000 calories per day in excess of what they needed to maintain body weight for eight weeks.  This was reported in the prestigious journal Science on January 8, 1999.

The weight gain ranged from 3 to16 pounds or 1.4 to 7.2 kilograms; the range of fat gain was even larger with an 11-fold spread.  Exercise was carefully controlled so it didn’t change.  Two-thirds of the variation was accounted for by non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT). Huh??  NEAT is the production of body heat that accompanies physical activities other than exercise, like fidgeting, standing up straight (Your mother was right!), spontaneous muscle contractions, etc.”

What is NEAT?

NEATBeing mindful of establishing healthy eating habits is absolutely essential to releasing weight and achieving good health, and living The One Wave Lifestyle.  Participating in daily exercise is also vital to reaching your goals, being especially mindful of the afterburn effect.  What about the other 23 hours of the day?  NEAT can have a significant impact on the amount of energy you burn without really changing much in your daily routine.  Is this THE ANSWER to losing weight? No!  Not in and of itself it’s not.  It IS or, at least, it can be a powerful contributor to releasing the weight you want and making it stick. Not only that but it can contribute to so many other vitally important health benefits that come with being more active

It all starts with your frame of mind.  Begin to really see yourself as the active minded person you aim to be.  Starting to fidget may not be the answer for you but there are numerous possibilities that will work in your world.  What are they for you?

Identify one and introduce it this week.  Add another next week and another the week after that.  Keep on going with as many as you can think of.  Get the support of friends, colleagues, and family to join in or help you stay on track.  All of the little things add up to big change in time.  Before you know it these little changes will become your new normal and these unconscious good habits will benefit you 23/7.

Here are a few more examples to get you started.

  •  choosing to stand over sitting – how many places can this apply in your world?
  • stand tall and lean – actively moderately engage your core muscles as you do daily tasks
  • walk to a colleagues office to ask or talk about something
  • take the stairs over the elevator or escalator – gradually build up how many flights
  • park far away from the entrance
  • get off the bus or train a stop or two early
  • stand to talk on the phone instead of reclining in your office chair


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About the Author

Brent Haydey Profile PhotoBeginning with a degree in exercise science and kinesiology, Brent Haydey has evolved over thirty years as an entrepreneur; building four businesses, and as a health, executive, and life coach.
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