What is NEAT and why is it important in your health and fitness goals?
When most people think of NEAT they think of steps or step counting, but in reality it’s much more than that. NEAT stands for non-exercise activity thermogenesis and it’s essentially any spontaneous unplanned physical activity, whether its fidgeting, posture, chewing gum, steps you take, climbing stairs, and/or any sort of physical cost of energy expenditure outside of that from specific training or working out.
There are 3 main components of totally daily caloric expenditure:
1. Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR): the number of calories you burn as your body performs basic life-sustaining functions such as breathing, blinking, bodily functions, etc.
2. Thermic Effect of Food: the amount of calories it takes your body to digest, absorb, and store the nutrients in the food you eat- accounts for about 10% of daily calories
3. Physical Activity- refers to all movement that you do, including working out, NEAT, and leisure activities
So why is it important? NEAT is the majority of energy expended outside of our BMR and the most variable part of our daily lives. Someone who is extremely sedentary might expect a contribution of 6-10% of total daily expenditure from NEAT, but for people who are active it could but up not 50% or more of their total daily expenditure or TDE for short.
According to the CDC, more than 60% of US adults do not engage in the recommended amount of physical activity, while 25% are not active at all.
The truth is, many people don’t move much at all these days. We are at the age of ease and convenience and can have anything we want through the click of our phone. We no longer have to walk far due to advances of transportation, labor jobs are made easier through modern technology, and office jobs have people sitting for 8+ hours a day.
You may think that working out and going to the gym makes up for spending the majority of the day sedentary, but you probably don’t realize that your full hour in the gym riding that stationary bike for an hour burns maybe 400 cals. Where as if you were to move throughout your entire day, you could be burning up to 2000 calories for some individuals.
So what are a few ways we can move around more throughout our own days? A few examples include:
1. Taking phone calls standing or walking around
2. Get a standing desk-even standing still encourages blood flow in your body, activates the muscles in your legs and burns more calories than sitting down
3. Taking the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator
4. Parking far away from the entrance of a building
5. Do your own errands/chores around the house
6. Go by bike or foot when you can
7. Take your dog for more frequent walks throughout the day
8. Stretch while you watch TV
9. Dancing to music
Including just a few of these things into your daily life could help you see improvements in not only body composition, but general overall health as being more active promotes longevity and wellness.