The basics of losing weight include improving your energy intake (what you eat) and increasing your energy output (exercise). Traditional exercise, also know as activity thermogenesis, includes things like running, biking, and strength training. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or NEAT, includes activity that is not sleeping, eating or sports related exercise. While exercise plays an important role in weight loss, NEAT, can be the critical activity that leads to meaningful and long lasting weight loss. NEAT includes things like housework, yard work, playing with your kids, walking, and even fidgeting. Add more NEAT to your day and burn more energy (calories). Over time, more NEAT can result in significant weight loss.
Back in the day, when most of us did physical labor as a part of our job, NEAT accounted for a large part of energy expenditure. In modern times, most of us have sedentary jobs, with little NEAT. While drivers have limitations with activity, there are ways to use your down time and time off to move more and get the impact of NEAT, to help lose weight. NEAT activities can burn an additional 1,000+ calories while a workout may only burn 300-500 calories. Movement of any kind, in addition to your exercise session, can be the difference between losing weight and maintaining weight.
If you are sedentary all day, NEAT may account for 5-10% of your energy output. Add more NEAT and your expenditure could rise to 50%. Take note of your healthy weight spouse, mom or friend. Notice how much they move-walking, bouncing their leg up and down, cleaning the counters, watering the garden, sweeping the steps….. NEAT may be key!
Think about ways you can add more NEAT. Here are some suggestions :
- Walk around your truck a few times while you are waiting
- Do some gentle stretches while you fuel up
- Walk while you talk on the phone to your dispatcher or spouse
- Take the stairs rather than an escalator or elevator
- Park further away from the truck stop, take the long way
- Stand rather than sit
- Fidget a bit (safely of course)
- Clean your truck
- Play with your kids
- Fly a kite
- Collect rocks at the lake, or colorful leaves in the forest
- Fidget while doing computer work
- Take breaks from sitting at home and walk around the yard
- Ride your bike to complete errands
- Cut the grass, plant flowers or water with a can
- Clean your house again and again!
- Cook (nutritious food)
- Brush your dog
- Grocery shop and walk each aisle
- Stretch or do a plank while watching television
- Rake leaves
- Shovel snow
- Complete house repairs
- Build something or do a craft
All of these activities require energy (calories). In a day, a week, a month, this extra activity adds up to lots of energy burned. More NEAT will mean more weight loss. It will become habit to sit less, and to use your non-working time to be more active and productive. If you have struggled to lose weight, have improved your diet, and are regular with exercise, NEAT might be the thing that helps you finally reach that goal weight.
by Christy Coughlin, Wellness Coach