Ideally, you want to achieve an ideal body shape without sweating or making an additional effort. But is it that simple?
If you look at lean people, some of them do not exercise or follow a strict diet. They remain fit because they are naturally so, and it seems unfair. But is there a way to understand the difference between this type of people and yourself? Moreover, is it possible to adopt their natural strategies and use them to lose additional weight?
According to science, NEAT strategies are probably one of the primary sources of weight loss in lean people, and you’re one step from getting acquainted with them. You will see they only require minimal changes in your lifestyle, and promise significant changes, not only in your body shape.
What is Exercise?
Exercise is a branch of physical activity that involves moving the body and doing energy-burning activities. Exercise is usually planned or practiced with a goal in mind. It can be a physical performance goal, as in winning a soccer match or following a medical recommendation or guideline, as in the usual 30-minute-a-day exercise recommendation to prevent and control obesity.
So, what is NEAT?
NEAT is short for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. This complicated wording simply means burned energy without doing traditional exercise. Throughout the day, you move your body, this burns energy and doesn’t count as exercise. It counts as NEAT. That includes every time you take the stairs or walk from one room to another. It also consists of the energy you use to stand up instead of sitting or the energy you use to move your fidgeting hands or your legs with a nervous tic.
If you want to see things in perspective, let’s review the formula of energy expenditure. It includes exercise and NEAT, but also other aspects you can’t really change. It looks like this:
Energy expenditure = Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) + Diet-induced thermogenesis (DIT) + Exercise + NEAT
RMR includes energy burned by your organism in autonomic functions such as the heartbeat and your breathing muscles. DIT is simply the energy your body utilizes to move the gastrointestinal tract and digest foods right after eating. You can’t easily change RMR and DIT, but you can modify exercise and NEAT.
And, if you look at people who are naturally lean without exercise, it all points out at NEAT as the source of those extra calories they are burning throughout the day.
Non exercise physical activities ideas you can try
So, what makes people lose weight using NEAT activity? Their propensity to move throughout the day.
In recent times, our society has made an impressive shift towards a less physically demanding type of job. The average person spends many hours at work every day, and sometimes that only involves sitting in front of a computer or another screen, maybe answering phone calls all day long if you work in a call center. Even after leaving work, we rely way too much on cars and technology to continue living an inactive lifestyle on our way home. Once we’re done working, some of us feel tired and do not contemplate leaving the comfort of our home for a short bout of exercise. Regardless, it is estimated that only 1 in 4 U.S. adults get sufficient physical activity throughout the day.
But there are ways to increase your rate of energy-burning, even if you have a sedentary job. People who consume a lot of calories in NEAT activity cannot stay still for long. They regularly change their posture, stand up, make up excuses to walk toward the bathroom, or drink a glass of water. If they are taking a call, they are not always sitting in the same spot. They tend to move around and walk throughout the house. All of this movement counts as NEAT, and it makes a difference because we’re talking about many hours of light energy-burning activities. It’s like doing cardio throughout the day and works similarly.
Even if you’re not fidgety, you can also increase your NEAT activity by what we call NEAT strategies. It involves looking for alternatives to burn more energy and moving around. You can try the following strategy or recommendations:
- Instead of sitting all day long, use active sitting alternatives, such as standing desks or sitting stools
- Stand instead of sitting if you’re on a waiting room
- Stand up for regular bathroom breaks or to drink a glass of water. Change your posture as much as you can
- Stop using the car to go to the nearest grocery store. If you can walk, start doing so
- Reduce your regular use of delivery services to buy your essentials. Go out and buy them yourself.
- Take the stairs instead of using the elevator. If you live on a very high floor, you can use the elevator to the adjacent floor and do the rest on your own
- Consider gardening and other activities at home that use a considerable amount of energy
- Do your house chores as much as possible instead of paying someone else to do them
Doing this is not necessarily hard, but it requires willpower, especially because one single action does not make a difference. But perseverance and creating a healthy habit based on NEAT strategies can ultimately lead to significant weight loss. In simple words, look for alternatives in your everyday life to move and use more energy. These types of activities won’t make you sweat, but they will definitely help you burn more energy.
According to studies, increasing your physical activity through NEAT strategies can burn an additional 400 calories every day. That’s even more than the average exercise session, and if you continue doing the same thing for one year, you have the opportunity to lose around 50 pounds every year. Of course, this also depends on your eating habits! In most cases, we lose 1 pound per week for every 500 calories of negative energy balance.
Keep in mind that these are rough numbers, and they apply to each person individually. You can burn much more than 400 calories every day by increasing your NEAT activity, or it can be less than that. Regardless, using this type of strategy will give you an edge to your current attempts to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
NEAT strategies can also be added to your regular exercise and your diet to give you a weight loss advantage. It is actually recommended, not only for overweight people but also for lean people who want to maintain their weight and be healthier. It works fantastically to maintain your weight once you’ve achieved your desired body shape.
Benefits of NEAT: Is it only about weight loss?
We usually think about calories, diet, and exercise when we want to lose weight. But there are many other benefits of physical activity besides preventing and controlling obesity. The same goes for NEAT.
Impressively, NEAT strategies can make a difference in your body shape if you continue applying them over one year. But that’s only the start because some people think that it doesn’t matter if they live a sedentary lifestyle. After all, they go to the gym after work and are, in theory balancing the equation. But that’s not what happens.
Sitting is now tagged as the new smoking, and independent of your exercise sessions every day, you can have an increased cardiovascular risk if you’re sitting for too long. Type 2 diabetes, glucose management, and the metabolic syndrome are all associated with our total sitting time. Even exercise bouts after sitting for a long time do not apparently counteract this problem. NEAT can also change this, reducing your cardiovascular risk and the chance of suffering from metabolic diseases, too.
Thus, adopting NEAT strategies is not only recommended for overweight and obese people who need to manage their weight. Even athletes and people with a somewhat active lifestyle can benefit, regardless of their body mass index. The recommendation is for every one of us to be more active in our day-to-day and realizing how sedentary behavior is not only increasing the risk of overweight and obesity and their long-term consequences. It is also increasing the risk of active people who spend a lot of time sitting and being inactive because, unlike NEAT, exercise does not counter the deleterious effects of sedentarism.