Do you do NEAT? NEAT is Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT), a term introduced by Dr. James Levine to describe the energy expended through daily activities other than sleeping, eating, or structured exercise. In this episode, Jen talks about NEAT and how increasing NEAT is a practical approach for individuals aiming to improve overall health and manage weight.

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Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) refers to the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating, or sports-like exercise. It includes the energy expended walking to work, typing, gardening, and even fidgeting. Initially coined by Dr James Levine, NEAT is increasingly recognised as a significant factor in energy balance, weight management, and overall health. Surprisingly, these minor physical activities can significantly increase metabolic rate and collectively determine an individual’s daily NEAT, accounting for a substantial portion of their non-resting energy expenditure. This challenges the traditional view that only structured exercise impacts our energy expenditure, highlighting the significant role daily movement plays in our lives.

Understanding NEAT: The Basics

NEAT encompasses a wide range of activities, from mundane to more vigorous tasks such as walking, standing, and spontaneous movements like pacing or foot tapping. These activities help increase daily calorie expenditure beyond what’s accounted for by the basal metabolic rate (BMR) and the thermic effect of food (TEF). Essentially, NEAT measures the energy expended in all activities that are neither resting nor exercise-based.

Factors Influencing NEAT

Several factors can influence individual NEAT levels:

  1. Occupational Activities: Jobs that involve physical labour, like construction, generally have higher NEAT levels compared to sedentary desk jobs.
  2. Leisure Activities: Recreational activities, such as dancing, playing with children, or walking the dog, also contribute to increased NEAT.
  3. Environmental Factors: Urban settings with more opportunities for walking or cycling promote higher NEAT levels than areas where cars are necessary.
  4. Individual Habits and Preferences: Personal habits and cultural norms can lead some to lead more physically active lifestyles.
  5. Psychological Factors: Personality traits, stress levels, and mood can influence how much one engages in spontaneous physical activity.

Health Implications of NEAT

The significance of NEAT extends beyond calorie burning to impact various health aspects:

  1. Weight Management: Higher NEAT levels can help manage weight and reduce obesity risks.
  2. Metabolic Health: Regular NEAT activities improve insulin sensitivity, blood lipids, and blood pressure.
  3. Cardiovascular Health: Activities like taking the stairs improve cardiovascular health by enhancing circulation and heart function.
  4. Mental Well-being: NEAT activities can boost mood, reduce stress, and improve cognitive function by promoting the release of beneficial neurochemicals.

Strategies to Increase NEAT

To tap into the health benefits of NEAT, consider incorporating more movement into your daily life:

  1. Integrate Movement: Include short walks, standing during phone calls, and household chores in your routine.
  2. Active Transportation: Choose walking or cycling over driving for short distances. Prefer stairs over lifts.
  3. Workplace Strategies: Implement the use of standing desks, walking meetings, and regular stretching breaks.
  4. Engage in Active Hobbies: Take up physically involving hobbies like dancing or swimming.
  5. Family and Social Activities: Organise outings that involve physical activities with loved ones.

Challenges and Considerations

While beneficial, increasing NEAT can be challenging due to sedentary lifestyles, physical limitations, or environmental barriers. Individual preferences and baseline NEAT levels also play a role in how enjoyable and feasible it is to enhance NEAT.

NEAT plays a critical role in our daily energy expenditure and health, extending well beyond structured exercise. By understanding and integrating more physical activity into our routines, we can significantly enhance our health and well-being. As ongoing research highlights NEAT’s benefits, incorporating it into public health strategies could be key to combating sedentary lifestyles and promoting long-term health benefits.

Did you enjoy the podcast today? Please let me know by leaving a review on Apple Podcasts. Every month I draw one lucky reviewer to have a free one-hour consultation with me. Also, remember to subscribe wherever you’re tuning in from so that you always catch the next episode.

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