A NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) way to burn more calories



By Stacy McClain, NASM-CPT

When you think about burning calories, what comes to mind? You’re probably picturing treadmills, an outdoor jog, cycling, perhaps your favorite bootcamp…well it turns out that the work you do in the gym is only a small part of your overall daily burn.

Let’s break it down. A calorie is a unit of energy. We eat and store calories in our body for energy to sustain our lives. Weight loss/gain/maintenance all depends on the balance of that energy. In order to lose or maintain our weight, we must expend the same amount or more of the energy that we take in. The way we expend that energy can be broken down into 3 categories.

The first is your basal metabolic rate (BMR). Your BMR is the amount of energy your body requires for normal bodily functions like proper brain and organ functioning and blood circulation. This accounts for about 60-75% of your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). It takes a lot of calories just to exist. Next, we have the thermic effect of food (TEF). TEF accounts for 15-30% of your TDEE and represents the amount of energy needed to breakdown and convert food for the body to use. It takes energy to create energy. And lastly, there is your thermic effect of physical activity (TEPA). This accounts for 15-30% of your TDEE and varies from person to person depending on their level of activity.

Now let’s break it down even further. Your TEPA is the component you have the most control over. Most people only think of this in terms of exercise-related activity thermogenesis (EAT) or the work that you do in the gym. While this is still an important component to your overall wellness and calorie burn, there is actually a lot of potential to burn calories outside of the gym as well. The other half of TEPA is comprised of non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) which is basically all your other day-to-day activities that require physical activity.

What’s neat is that there are opportunities to engage in NEAT activities all around us, and the calories we burn here and there from engaging in these activities can really add up. Try incorporating the below into your every day to help you achieve your wellness goals.

NEAT activities:

  • Commit to an active commute of walking or biking

  • Use the stairs

  • Play with your kids

  • Play with your dog

  • Clean (sweeping, dusting, vacuuming, scrubbing)

  • Carry your bags (groceries, suitcases, shopping)

  • Stand up (at your desk, every hour, during meetings)

  • Pace (while on the phone)

  • Cook

  • Do your own chores (laundry, mow the lawn, shovel, rake, wash the car, put together your Ikea furniture)

  • Order for pick up (limit your use of online delivery services)

  • Explore your city on foot

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