NEAT - Why is this important to know about?
What is NEAT?
NEAT stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis and is all the activity that isn’t intentional exercise: fidgeting, walking, playing with your kids, etc.
NEAT is one of the most overlooked aspects of body composition changes.
There are 24 hours in a day and most people will only be training for around an hour a day. (okay maybe not some CrossFitters). That’s only ~5% of your day.
However, there are 168 hours in one week. If someone trains for an hour 3-4x per week, that’s 3-4 hours of intentional exercise versus 163-165 hours of no exercise.
Do we all agree that those 163-165 hours could have a bigger influence on our body composition than what we do in the 3-5 hours in the gym.
And that’s where NEAT comes in.
The graph below shows the difference in calories expended via different jobs.
Note how much of a difference there is in calorie expenditure between being seated all day (seated work – no option of moving) and standing work.
Likewise, in another study researchers looked at the calories expended via simple daily movement.
• Resting: 78 calories/hour
• Sitting motionless: 84 calories/hour
• Standing motionless: 87 calories/hour
• Sitting while fidgeting: 116 calories/hour
• Standing while fidgeting: 147 calories/hour
• Walking at 1.6 km/h (0.9 miles/hour): 196 calories/hour
• Walking at 4.8 km/h (2.9 miles/hour) – average walking speed: 300 calories/hour
Of course, these numbers are just averages and will vary depending on a number of factors like age, sex, height, weight, etc. but I think they provide a good insight into how many calories you can burn throughout the day via simple movement. And seeing as you spend more time outside of the gym than you do in the gym, all these simple movements can add up very quickly.
Why NEAT is important for both strength and fat loss
If you are looking to lose fat you have to be in a calorie deficit. Creating that deficit can come from decreasing intake and / or increasing output.
So if we increase our NEAT we have seen that this increases calories burned. So if fat loss is the goal then moving more is a simple way to increase your output.
Simple hey?! Just be getting those steps up means you do not have to restrict your food as much.
Ever heard someone say “I’m a hard gainer, no matter what I eat I can’t put on weight”.
Well, there will be a reason. Probably it is due to doing too much cardio, not strength training hard enough or not consistently eating enough.
But, NEAT can play a role. If you have an active job then the calorie output from NEAT may be preventing you from being in a calorie surplus, and therefore halting your progress.
A few ways to increase your NEAT.
1. Stand and sit. There's nothing inherently wrong with sitting. The issue is excess inactivity. So the easiest way to fix this is to split up the amount of time you sit with standing.
2. Get up and walk around the office or stretch every 30-45 mins.
3. Go for a short walk at lunch. A short walk at lunch time can help clear your mind, allow you to get some fresh air, and burn a few calories in the process.
Ways to decrease your NEAT.
1. Move loss. Yep as simple as that. Netflix marathon here we come.
2. Eat less. Eating less will result in your body wanting to do less.
Make sure your are aligning your NEAT to help you reach your goals.
1. The role of non-exercise activity thermogenesis in human obesity, Christian von Loeffelholz, M.D, 2014
2. Energy expenditure of non-exercise activity. Levine JA, 2000
3. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT): environment and biology, Levine JA, 2004
4. Angelo Tremblay, Geneviève Major, Éric Doucet, Paul Trayhurn & Arne Astrup (2007) Role Of Adaptive Thermogenesis In Unsuccessful Weight-Loss Intervention, Future Lipidology, 2:6, 651-658,
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We teach you in simple terms about principles such as NEAT so you can build a personalised plan
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