That’s right, non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is an easy way to help maintain your healthy weight.
NEAT accounts for much of the movements you make during the day — walking, standing, pacing, cleaning the house, cooking, climbing stairs, and folding laundry — yet doesn’t include actual exercise. The more movements you make during the day, the more calories you burn. Whereas if you sit all day, you’re more likely to store calories rather than burn them.
Our society today is packed with “sitters.” In fact, technology has made it quite easy to simply sit all day with minimal effort or activity. The remote control allows us to sit while changing the channel, cell phones allow us to stay put while making a call, escalators take the work out of stair climbing, online shopping has taken the walking out of malls, and our long hours of working sit us in front of computers and desks for eight-plus hours at a time.
Yes, we do a lot of sitting. Recently, studies have revealed that our sedentary lifestyle may lead to some major health risks above and beyond obesity. Sitting for prolonged periods can increase your risk for developing heart disease, metabolic syndrome, diabetes and even cancer.
Another study done in Australia shows that each hour spent watching TV is linked to an 18 percent increased risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.
Interestingly enough, there are even athletes who workout every day who can be considered sitters — they’re called couch potato athletes. These are people who work out every day but who sit for the majority of the time otherwise. This behavior still puts them at a slight risk of developing disease.
The good news is that much of this sitting can be cured. By simply moving around more during the day, or even just standing more, we can not only burn more calories, but also help prevent all those expensive diseases in the future.
Did you know it costs about $18,000 a year in medical, prescription, test strips, and other costs to have diabetes? And that’s with health insurance. It’s like buying a used Honda every year.
So what can easy steps can you take to become less of a sitter?
- Stand at your desk at work: Purchase a small table (or a mini-laptop desk) for your keyboard, raise your computer screen up on a shelf or platform, and stand for periods of time while working. This can even be great for your back, shoulders, and legs, helping to prevent cramping, slouching and other stresses. In fact, I've recently purchased a laptop desk to put my keyboard on so that I can stand at my desk while working. It's great!
- Take short walking or stretching breaks throughout the day: Every 45 minutes to an hour, get up and take a short five-minute walk. This will not only help stretch your legs and back, but also help you refocus on your work with renewed energy.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator: You’ve heard this one before, but it’s such an easy switch to make, especially if it’s only a few flights up or down – why not start now?
- If your calling a co-worker down the hall, get up and walk to them instead: Again, this will help you stretch and refocus.
- Take 15 minutes for a nice, brisk walk after work: This is especially good to do if you don’t have time for a full workout at night. Not only is this a great way to help unwind from the day, but it could also be a great excursion for the whole family (and your dog will love it too).
- Pace while your on the phone: Moving while talking helps get the blood and conversation flowing.
Aim for about 10 minutes of NEAT per hour. By incorporating some of these ideas into your day, you could burn as much as an extra 500 calories per day. That’s pretty significant.
Of course there are other factors that go into your happy weight: Eating and drinking the amount of calories your body needs to support healthy functioning (without over doing it too often), regular exercise and stress management.
Yet NEAT is something easy to include in your everyday life, and can even help prevent disease.