NEAT – How much you move really makes a difference

May 24, 2022 | Exercise

NEAT is the energy our body burns doing everything excluding keeping itself alive, processing the food we consume, and exercising.

Your metabolism is always working to expend energy. The energy you expend in a day is called your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) and it is made up of a few components:

  • BMR – Basal Metabolic Rate – The energy your body uses just keeping itself alive
  • TEF – Thermic Effect of Food – The energy your body uses to process the food that you consume
  • TEPA – Thermic Effect of Physical Activity – This is broken down into two categories:
    a. NEAT – Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis
    b. EAT – Exercise Activity Thermogenesis

When most people think of moving their bodies in order to lose weight, they think about the formal exercise they are doing (the EAT), that one hour of weights in the gym, half hour run, hot yoga session or boxing class. While this does make a difference, particularly if resistance training is involved (I’ll cover this in a future blog), there is movement that’s even more important and that is our NEAT.

NEAT is the energy our body burns doing everything excluding keeping itself alive, processing the food we consume, and exercising.

Examples of NEAT:

  • Walking without getting your heart rate elevated
  • Bouncing your leg
  • Doing the gardening
  • Mowing the lawn
  • Cleaning the house
  • Rocking your baby to sleep
  • DIY projects around the house
  • Moving furniture

Now you might not think it would make much of a difference, surely we burn more energy when we’re smashing out a HIIT session at the gym than we would walking to the toilet every hour or so to pee, right? Well no, in fact most of us don’t. Everyone is different and their energy expenditure will vary depending on the type of lifestyle they have, but NEAT actually forms quite a significant amount of our energy expenditure for the day (up to 50% in some cases), so it’s important we understand it and try to increase it where we can. The 10,000 steps a day rule has
been thrown around quite a bit lately, and if you can hit that, good on you, but it’s not the end of the world if you don’t. If you’re potting plants all day, or weeding the garden, you might be expending more energy than taking those steps, so it’s not an exact science.

The other reason movement is so important is because being sedentary (still) is not great for us. According to the World Health Organisation, “sedentary lifestyles increase all causes of mortality, double the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and obesity, and increase the risks of colon cancer, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, lipid disorders, depression and anxiety”. And, “60 to 85% of people in the world – from both developed and developing countries – lead sedentary lifestyles, making it one of the more serious yet insufficiently addressed public health
problems of our time”.

Ok, so now that you understand that NEAT is very very important. Here are some ways that you can increase your NEAT in any given day.

Ways to increase your NEAT:

  • Play with your kids, or someone else’s kids (with the parent’s consent)
  • Clean the house more (husbands, take note)
  • Get out into the garden more
  • Find someone’s baby to rock to sleep (again, with the parent’s consent)
  • Park further away from your destination (unless it’s raining)
  • Go to Bunnings more (to buy things to do more DIY projects)
  • Help someone move house
  • Drink more water so you have to go to the toilet more
  • Ride to school or work
  • Walk to where you’re going instead of driving, or if it’s too far, catch the bus part of the way and walk the rest
  • Get a stand up desk for work or home
  • Stand up and do a quick stretch every hour
  • Have walking meetings where possible at work
  • Get one of those cool treadmill desks if you’re keen to be reaaaalllly NEAT (and you can afford it)
  • Have dance offs with your children at home
  • Have dance offs with your colleagues at work
  • Have dance offs with strangers in the street (again, please always get consent)

The point of the story is that the more you move, the more your body will love you for it. Burning a bit of extra energy each hour of the day all adds up. In addition to nourishing your body with good food and getting your exercise in when you can, NEAT is a neat (see what I did there) addition to your lifestyle which will contribute to better overall health.