James Levine, a researcher with the Mayo Clinic, is conducting research involving the current obesity epidemic and found that sedentary people do not lose weight as much as physically active people. Well, this sounds like a no-brainer, but what he found is that the physically active people are not necessarily "exercising" more; the non-sedentary folks are involved in greater "informal" physically active throughout the day by doing laundry, grocery shopping, mowing the grass, making the bed. You know---the daily chores that we should be doing, and are putting off through procrastinating (ie, ...just one more email...after this TV show I will...). Now you have another great reason to clean your room, make your bed and take out the trash like your parents asked you to...it might just count as a workout!
He coined the acronym N.E.A.T. (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) to explain this phenomenon of being more "spontaneously physically active". According to Levine, "NEAT is highly variable and ranges from about 15 percent of total daily energy expenditure in very sedentary individuals to over 50 percent in highly active persons. Even minor changes in physical activity throughout the day can increase daily energy expenditure by 20 percent." What's more, the article explains that "lean individuals store at least 2-3 months of their energy needs in fat tissue; whereas obese persons carry a year's worth." And, as those of us who are trying to lose some extra weight, the energy expenditure (and, less food consumption, of course) is the magic part of the weight loss equation.
I thought this was fascinating, as I was expecting to lose more post-pregnancy weight with chasing after a toddler. Well, the obvious part I was missing is that he is constantly on the go, darting from room-to-room instead of walking, throwing a ball, playing with trains...while I am sitting in the playroom watching him. I'm emotionally engaged with him, but not physically....so that is about to change!
Natural Health magazine even wrote a 4-page article about this topic, Stand Up--Right Now!", that outlines various ways to engage in NEAT throughout the day at home and at work. For instance, if you are at a computer all day and sit in a chair, you can sit on an exercise ball instead (engages your core muscles), you can take more frequent walk breaks, or walk to a co-workers' office instead of calling/emailing. All of these add up to weight loss and overall better health.
Think about how you spend your leisure time each day. If you have a few hours in the evening, do you use all of those hours, every day, to watch TV or play a video game, or surf the net? What could you do in those few hours, or even just one hour a night, that could constitute NEAT? Cleaning windows, dusting, washing dishes, walking the dog, playing hoops with your kids. The Natural Health magazine offered some other suggestions, including, "...dancing while cooking, or walking while talking on phone." You could even try stretching during TV commercials.
How can you add more NEAT into your life, starting right now? How about this: after reading this article, stand up and take a stroll down the hallway, and come back to this page to tell us what you think!
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