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For everyone who goes on the fat loss road, the two aspects that we take into consideration are training and diet. Of course, we do that because that’s fat loss 101, correct? Increase training time and intensity and eat less food. However, there is a third variable to this equation that most people almost never take into consideration - Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis.
Better known as N.E.A.T. for short.
Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (N.E.A.T.) is the energy that we use for everything else we’re doing when we’re not actually exercising (or sleeping for that matter.) Examples of things like this would be doing chores, cleaning the house, going shopping, walking up a flight of stairs to get to the office or even the hour of fidgeting after a strong cup of black coffee in the morning. These are all great examples of activities that burn calories on the wayside, and they do that in more ways and amounts than we would expect.
Our jobs and careers tend to impact our levels of N.E.A.T. greatly. Occupational N.E.A.T. is the activity thermogenesis resulting from work. Nurses, waiters or waitresses, construction workers or personal trainers – anyone working in an occupation that requires you to be on your feet moving about or engaging in any physical activity – would have levels of N.E.A.T. which are high enough to make the rest of us green with envy.
On the other hand, people who spend their weekdays seated at their desks for the majority of their time have levels of N.E.A.T. that are quite low compared to the aforementioned groups. The difference in energy expenditure between active jobs and sedentary jobs can range in the hundreds of calories zones. On a weekly basis that could mean the difference between 0.5kg - 1kg of weight loss (in extreme cases, sometimes more).
All in all, your total daily N.E.A.T. could very well burn as many calories, if not more, as your training sessions. Taking control of your N.E.A.T. means that if you’ve hit a plateau, you could very well take the steps needed to get over your slump and get right back on the road to a lighter you.
According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, a 66kg person can expect to burn approximately 102 calories an hour while sitting at work. If that person stood while working, they would burn 174 calories. An extra 72 calories might not seem like a lot, but it can add up to more than 18,000 calories burned per year, leading to an approximate 2.2kg weight loss. Without utilising N.E.A.T., you would have to do 60 30-minute runs at 5 miles per hour to burn the same rate of calories.
Standing can make a difference. A growing body of evidence shows that sitting still for too long can be hazardous to your health. Simply standing is one form of NEAT that can help increase your daily caloric expenditure.
Daily steps add up. The U.S. Department of Health has been promoting 10,000 steps a day as an achievable goal for daily physical activity. Even if you don’t make it to 10,000 steps, adding extra steps to your day is an important component of N.E.A.T. that can burn calories while adding health-promoting activity to your life.
Walk or cycle for transportation. Have you ever been stuck in traffic during your commute and thought, “There has got to be a better way?” By choosing to walk or ride a bicycle for your daily commute, you can burn significant amounts of energy during an activity where most people spend their time sitting. If you take a bus or train as part of your commute, getting off a stop or two early provides a great opportunity for some extra walking. Most errands are run in close proximity to home, so when you need to make that quick run for baking supplies, and time allows, walking to your destination is a great way to increase your N.E.A.T.
There is cleaning and then there is getting-ready-to-host-a-party or have-your-mother-in-law-over-for-dinner cleaning. We all know the difference. Doing additional tasks around the house or putting a little extra effort into your daily chores can be a great opportunity to increase daily N.E.A.T.
Play with your kids. In this modern era of having an app for everything, there is no app for spending extra time with your kids. If you can carve out even a few minutes for playing catch, kicking a ball or walking down to your neighbourhood park, you will be spending precious time with your offspring while racking up N.E.A.T. An additional benefit to playing is that it can also help boost neural activity and cognition, so not only are you burning a few more calories, you could actually be increasing your brain function as well.
If losing weight is your primary reason for exercising, N.E.A.T. is an essential component of that objective. If you could try to get in 10 000 steps in a day, that would be the equivalent of 500 calories burned. Over the period of a week, that would be 3500 calories and that value is the same as losing approximately half a kilo of fat. You could eventually see yourself losing an additional 5kg of weight on top of your training and dieting weight loss. It all adds up in the long run.
So, while it may come across as a seemingly small adjustment, by making the effort to change your daily habits by adding more N.E.A.T. along with reducing overall caloric intake and training well, you’ll create a foundation for long-lasting weight-loss success.
Author: Callaghn Soligram