“…even small changes in NEAT can add up to a significant increase in calorie burn over time. In fact, a study found that participants who increased their NEAT by 2,000 calories per week (through activities such as standing instead of sitting and taking the stairs instead of the elevator) lost an average of 2.2 pounds over 12 weeks (2).”
NEAT: An Easy Way to Burn More Calories Without Exercise
We often hear about the importance of exercise for weight loss and overall health, but what about the calories we burn in our daily activities? Non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or NEAT, is the energy we expend through daily activities that are not considered exercise. This includes things like walking, standing, fidgeting, and even typing. While it may not seem like much, increasing your NEAT can have a significant impact on your overall calorie burn and weight loss goals.
Why NEAT Matters
Research has shown that NEAT can vary widely between individuals and can account for up to 50% of daily energy expenditure (1). This means that even small changes in NEAT can add up to a significant increase in calorie burn over time. In fact, a study found that participants who increased their NEAT by 2,000 calories per week (through activities such as standing instead of sitting and taking the stairs instead of the elevator) lost an average of 2.2 pounds over 12 weeks (2).
Increasing your NEAT can also have other health benefits beyond weight loss. A study found that sitting for long periods of time (which reduces NEAT) was associated with an increased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and premature death, independent of exercise habits (3).
Actionable Steps to Increase NEAT
The good news is that there are many simple ways to increase your NEAT throughout the day. Here are some tips:
- Stand More: Stand while you work, watch TV, or talk on the phone. This can burn up to 50 more calories per hour compared to sitting (4).
- Take Frequent Breaks: Get up and move around for a few minutes every hour. This can be as simple as stretching, walking around the office, or doing a few squats.
- Walk More: Park farther away from your destination, take the stairs instead of the elevator, and take a walk during your lunch break.
- Fidget: While it may annoy those around you, fidgeting (such as tapping your foot or shaking your leg) can increase calorie burn by up to 350 calories per day (5).
- Do Household Chores: Cleaning, gardening, and other household chores can burn a surprising number of calories.
By incorporating these simple tips into your daily routine, you can increase your NEAT and burn more calories without even realizing it.
- Levine, J. A. (2002). Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT). Nutrition Reviews, 60(suppl_10), S64-S67.
- Church, T. S., Martin, C. K., Thompson, A. M., Earnest, C. P., & Mikus, C. R. (2009). The impact of different doses of moderate to vigorous physical activity on cardiorespiratory fitness, body composition, and metabolic changes in sedentary, overweight men and women. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 54(24), 2376-2385.
- Matthews, C. E., George, S. M., Moore, S. C., Bowles, H. R., Blair, A., Park, Y., … & Schatzkin, A. (2012). Amount of time spent in sedentary behaviors and cause-specific mortality in US adults. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 95(2), 437-445.
- Buckley, J. P., Mellor, D. D., Morris, M., Joseph, F., & Pettifer, S. (2014). Standing-based office work shows encouraging signs of attenuating post-prandial glycaemic excursion. Occupational and environmental