Could you explain what NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) means?

Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is the energy/calories expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating or exercise. It ranges from the energy expended through walking to work, typing, fidgeting, performing house work, physical labour, walking up and down the stairs and grocery shopping. This type of activity is also known as spontaneous physical activity, which helps us burn additional calories as well as helping to increase metabolic rate.

Why is increasing our NEAT important, and not just focusing on exercise?

Physiological studies have shown that NEAT is modulated with changes in energy balance i.e. energy in versus energy out. These studies show that NEAT increases with overfeeding and decreases with underfeeding. Thus, NEAT is a critical component in how we maintain our body weight and/or develop obesity or lose weight.

Being sedentary for long hours of the day can suppress your body’s natural thermogenesis(calorie-burning capability).  Your body is programmed to burn calories, but the issue is that you can’t stimulate your body’s full capacity to burn calories if you are sitting for too long. In fact, extended periods of inactivity is not only a depressant for thermogenesis, but also for your brain.

Are active hobbies a good way to move more and increase NEAT? What benefits can we expect?

Yes, even trivial physical activities increase metabolic rate substantially and it is the cumulative impact of multiple actions and hobbies, which determines an individual’s daily NEAT. The major benefits of including and increasing NEAT-type hobbies and activities, daily, is that it will improve your basal metabolic rate. This means your body will be programmed to burn more calories at rest, over time. This is highly beneficial for weight maintenance and/or weight loss.

Additional benefits of moving your body more include; better cardiovascular and respiratory output, improved fitness, healthy bone density, better mental health, better general health and quality of life.

What are 5-8 fun hobbies we can get into that help increase energy expenditure?

  • Gardening – If you’ve got the space, this activity is not only good for mental health but it uses a lot of different muscle groups meaning you can burn quite a few calories in a short period of time.
  • Learn to cook – The kitchen is one of the best areas in the house to burn calories. Plus, you’re creating happiness for others in the process.
  • Get intimate – intimate activities such as kissing, undressing and sex all burn calories. It’s been proven that sex can burn 100 or more calories per half hour.
  • Walk the dog – Pets are a great way to encourage you to become more active. Whether it be indoors or outdoors, this activity is sure to burn calories.
  • Take the kids to the park – If you have children, initiate more activities and play time outdoors.

Also, it’s important to note that most people spend the majority of their day at work. One way to increase caloric burn is to implement non-exercise movement throughout the workday. Some examples of NEAT activities during the work day include:

  • Change your mode of transportation -walk, bike, train or bus to work instead of driving.
  • Implement walking meetings – If your work permits it, head outdoors for a walking meeting. Walking is an effective way to burn additional calories.
  • Take the stairs – An obvious one but for good reason. Skip the elevator and take the stairs to keep the body moving throughout the day.
  • Stand instead of sit – Adjustable desks are becoming increasingly popular in the workplace. Investing in one of these may help to increase caloric output because resting heart rate is higher when standing than sitting.