NEAT – WHAT IS IT, AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

NEAT, Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, is one of the most significant variables when it comes to weight loss or muscle gain, or pretty much any physical goal you might have. Essentially, NEAT is all the calories you burn over the course of the day through all movement other than exercise. It is the calories you burn through walking, sitting down working at a desk, walking upstairs or through standing up in a lift. Any movement you make outside of your daily or weekly exercise will contribute to your NEAT.

Why is it so important? Well for one, because unless you are running some type of ultra-marathon or ultra-endurance event, the vast majority of your calorie burn on a daily basis will be attributable to NEAT. We often place so much emphasis on to our structured training – pushing as hard as we can, working as hard as possible for that prescribed amount of time – while placing little to no emphasis on the rest of the day. That is something we need to address.

Say you’re exercising for an hour a day. Whats the highest percentage of calories you can burn in one hour. Maybe ¼ of your total daily calorie expenditure? So ¾ of your calorie expenditure is coming from other factors then – notably TEE (thermic effect of food), BMR (basal metabolic rate), and largest of all: NEAT. 

Now, if we want to affect weight loss in an effective way, increasing our NEAT is a very good method to do so. If you are able to increase your daily activity by a small amount on a consistent basis (every single day), the effort required is minimal, but the results soon add up. For example, if you walk an extra 500m every single day, that might not seem like a huge amount. Now let’s say you do this every day for six months. That’s an extra 90km walked (based on a 30 day month). Suddenly your small activity change seems a lot more significant!

NEAT is something we can all change – whether it is increasing our NEAT to aid weight loss, or in some cases decreasing it if we want to gain weight our struggle to maintain our own bodyweight. Affecting the energy balance is the only natural way to alter our bodyweight, but sometimes we put too much focus and energy into the wrong areas. Rather than trying to drastically change or alter our diets, or punishing ourselves through overly intense exercise, find something it is more likely you are going to adhere too – small changes and alterations that you can adopt on a long-term basis. Endeavouring to increase our NEAT – whether it’s by walking around the block one more time per day, taking the stairs instead of the lift, or even by getting a standing desk at work (standing up for 8 hours instead of sitting down will burn a lot more calories too) – is a manageable task for most, if not all, of us.

So, here’s the challenge: starting today, adopt a minor activity level change that you can do EVERY SINGLE DAY. No matter how insignificant it may seem, if you stick to it consistently, I assure you it will make a significant difference to you.

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