How to increase your NEAT
We currently are facing a crisis of becoming an increasingly sedentary society, with global trends of prolonged sitting and convenience becoming greater threats to our health and wellbeing than ever before.
One way to combat this? Increase your NEAT.
Every seemingly menial and unconscious action we undertake adds to our daily metabolic burn and energy expenditure, from when you draw the short straw and have to unpack the dishwasher, to your constant fidgeting, to skipping the escalator and opting to climb the stairs instead – all of it adds to your Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT).
What is NEAT?
NEAT is the energy expended from anything than it is not eating, sleeping or sports-like. It refers to any movement that is not an intended workout. When looking at energy requirements, calculate our daily Total Energy Expenditure (TEE) by adding your Basal Metabolic Rate (the rate of metabolism if you do nothing more than sleep, breathe and go to the bathroom) to the Thermic Effect of Food (the energy required to consume and digest meals) and Activity Thermogenesis, which can be broken down into both intended exercise and NEAT. Without changing any other variable, NEAT is the cumulative total of all the activity that contributes to your daily energy burn beyond your exercise regime. It's popularity as a way to combat rising obesity levels and weight gain began to take off when a study in the phenomen indicated the role of NEAT can change enegery expenditure of two people of similar size by up to 2,000kcal a day. For those looking to change or maintain body composition, we can see altering the NEAT aspect can become an essential tool for body mass control.
We can see a change to our TEE by altering NEAT as the frequency of movement can be high as we often unconsciously are performing menial, everyday tasks that accumulate to have impact. However, our commitment to exercise can be variable, indicating it may not always have as much of a direct link on our daily energy expenditure as we may think.
Sure we may schedule a workout and adhere to a training program, but this tends to be for an hour max a day – what about the endless hours chained to our desks, sitting in a car or train to commute home and the Netflix binge sessions (yes, I am would like to continue watching….)
In short, it’s all about trying to get you to move more.
Why is NEAT important?
With the rapid expansion of technology, the hustle to success and industrial growth, there is an overall decrease in NEAT and in general, how much we are moving. We have become an ever-increasing sedentary race, far from our primal predecessors who spent the days hunting, gathering and even our grandparents who didn’t have the luxury of Uber, Amazon Prime and delivery food services. We have everything at the touch of our fingertips and as a result, we are getting damn lazy.
The disease of sitting is spreading far and wide and proving to have hugely detrimental effects. Metabolic syndrome, excessive adiposity or weight gain and Type 2 diabetes risk have all been directly related to sitting time and low NEAT. Estimations currently depict that too much sitting can more than double the risk for metabolic syndrome.
Occupational and leisure neat.
We can classify NEAT into two categories – occupational and leisure. Occupational NEAT refers to the activity associated to your occupation and work life. With a rise in industrialization we see a corresponding decrease NEAT – no thanks due to the fact many workforces demand long hours seated at a desk, whilst comparably roles in manual labour and agriculture increases NEAT as it generally induces physical movement. Indicating that beyond just the stress of your inbox, your choice of career can have a direct link to your health. Comparably, leisure NEAT refers to all activities undertaken outside of work hours, which can range from laying around watching TV, to gardening or fixing a new lightbulb.
How to increase your NEAT
So how can we go about increasing your NEAT and as a result your overall daily energy burn? Try incorporating a few of these simple hacks into your daily routine and focus on moving more throughout the course of your day.
Stand up to work
In the past few years we have begun to see the rise in popularity of stand up desks and the benefits not only to your NEAT, but postural alignment, reduction of pain and levels of productivity are all benefical side effects of getting out of the chair and standing to work. In fact, in relation to occupational NEAT levels, just by standing as you work, you can increase up to 1400kcal a day of your TEE. Many work places are now offering standing desks options to employees, or they can acquired upon request for health reasons. If this isn’t an option, don’t worry we have come by many a hack in our time – from a stack of books to rest your laptop on, to switching out your kitchen table for a bar height desk, to this handy IKEA hack – there are plenty of thrifty ways to get standing!
Embrace the fidgets
Forget all those times your mum told you to stop fidgeting and sit still, it’s time to embrace all the toe tapping, nodding your head along to the music and shifting around in your seat as these fidgets, in a small way, add to the cumulative total of your NEAT.
Talk and Walk
When the phone rings, it’s time to pace the floors like you’re trying to burn a hole in the carpet. Simply by walking around, be it the office floor or simply back and forth across your room, you will be adding in extra steps accumulating to your daily NEAT.
Move meetings outdoors
Have an important meeting to attend? Instead of booking out the boardroom, take it to the streets. Walk and talks are becoming more common and an easy way to have productive discussions while additionally clocking some steps and some fresh air. Sure you can’t show off your stellar power point skills, but where and when it works, skip the seated, sleep inducing natters, and opt for a cruise instead.
Take the Stairs
Repeat your new manta “Stairs. Always.” Whenever faced with two options of an escalator or stairs, always choose the stairs. Not only does it pick the heart rate up, but it also is a killer glute activation exercise – hello perky booty!
Clean your act up
Unless you are one of those freaky, loves cleaning types [side note: who even are you] then cleaning will generally leave you will feelings of serious dread. But grandma and her excessive cleaning seriously had the right idea – that sweeping, vacuuming, dusting and wiping clean can have some serious energy burn effects.
How do you get to work every day? Is it the same bus, at the same time, in the same seat? Or perhaps it’s sitting still in the gridlock traffic on the freeway edging closer to your destination at snail’s pace? Well how about switching up that commute for something a little more active! Try walking to work, or cycling to a train station where you can lock up and hop on. Or perhaps it’s a run commute. Sure, it’s more exercise than not, but if you’re pinched for time, switching up your commute is an easy way to add in a little extra burn to your day.
Take the long road
We love convenience, in fact much of our modern life is being built around making things increasingly more convenient, so it’s going to feel a little jarring to say, get uncomfortable and choose the options in your daily routine that are the least convenient. Whenever you nip out for a coffee break or to pick up lunch, choose a location that isn’t right outside, but requires just a little extra walk – simple, unintentional movement.
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