Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis - It’s really NEAT!

Did you know that little changes to your routine can help you burn more calories? 

Many overweight people in the USA have "sitting disease" and would lose weight if they did more walking, standing, and moving around during the day, says endocrinologist James Levine of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Levine is talking about increasing your NEAT, or "non-exercise activity thermogenesis," which accounts for much of your movement and calorie expenditure throughout the day.

These are activities such as:

  • walking to lunch
  • pacing while on the phone
  • cleaning the house
  • cooking
  • climbing stairs
  • standing while you talk to a friend
  • folding laundry

According to Dr. Levine "…the energy expenditure of all physical activities other than volitional sporting-like exercise. NEAT includes all those activities that render us vibrant, unique and independent beings such as dancing, going to work or school, shoveling snow, playing the guitar, swimming or walking in the modern Mall."

Dr. Levine's work has shown that NEAT burns an average of 330 calories per day in healthy individuals (and up to nearly 700 calories/day in some people!), and that obese individuals perform drastically less NEAT than their lean counterparts.

Levine has also made convincing arguments that NEAT could burn up to 1000 calories per day when properly incorporated throughout the work day. These results suggest that NEAT can burn a tremendous amount of calories, which has obvious implications for weight maintenance and obesity prevention.

So, how can you reduce your time spent being sedentary and increase your NEAT levels? It's not as hard as you may think!

Here are examples of how you can change your daily routine to burn more calories:

Typical day at the office Calories burned Picking up the pace Calories burned
Park by building, take elevator to your floor. 15 Park 5 blocks from office. Take stairs to your floor. 80-120
Make phone calls for an hour at desk. 15 Take calls standing up and pacing. Put notepad on bookcase or filing cabinet to take notes without bending down. 100-130
Seated 45-minute lunch. 25 Walk 30 minutes at lunch; sit and eat 15 minutes. 100-130
Seated 1-hour meeting. 15 1-hour walking meeting. 150-200
Take elevator to ground floor. Walk to car. Drive home. 15 Take stairs out of the building, walk back to car. 80-100
Total 85 Total 510-680

Source: Move a Little, Lose a Lot by James Levine and Selene Yeager

Learn more about Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis

View the Health Plus Healthier You presentation The N.E.A.T. Part of Exercise