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NEAT-ness Counts! Another way to lose some weight...

Monday, March 19, 2018

NEAT stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. It is the energy we expend as we do everything that is not sleeping, eating or specifically "exercise". Things like walking, house-cleaning, typing, fidgeting, doing yard work, washing the dishes, folding clothes, cleaning the car; even just standing.

Amazingly, this adds up to probably a LOT more important than you might think!

Our daily energy output is determined by four things.
1) Basal metabolic rate (what your body burns when it is doing NOTHING),
2) Thermic effect of Food (what your body burns when you are eating, digesting, and converting your food into energy your body can actually use),
3) Sports-Related Activity & Exercise, and
4) Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (every other physical movement we make).

There is generally not much we can do about our basal metabolic rate and the thermic effect of our food. Sports-related activity for most of us, while important, requires a great deal of discipline and consistency to make a big difference. But our NEAT activity during any given day is probably the easiest thing to make a positive change in and to see a positive result.

Our daily NEAT energy can be as little as 15% of our daily energy expenditure, or as much as 50%. Dr James A Levine, author of "Move A Little, Lose A Lot", explains that we have rising obesity rates because we have rising rates of "sitting disease". Our culture and lifestyle changes over the last 50+ years have increased the sedentary nature of our life activity.

With the advent of cars, buses, trains, washing machines, dishwashers, televisions, and computers, just to mention a few of our myriad technology advances, we have found reason after reason to decrease our physical activity. Our bodies were MADE to MOVE, and yet we find as many ways as possible to do less and less by our own energy.

We walk less, we ride our bikes less, we use less energy to cook, clean, and maintain our homes. Even our computers take less physical energy than the old-style typewriter. And our entertainment habits have multiplied in the areas of TV, video games and the like.

Interestingly, it has been found that extended inactivity is actually a DEPRESSANT to both our brains and our bodies. The extended amount of time we spend sitting each day actually SUPPRESSES our calorie burning capability as well.

We are becoming an obese society, not just from eating too much of the wrong foods, but even more so because we don't use our body for what it was designed to do. Our bodies are designed for movement and work. We don't have metabolism problems as much as we have MOVEMENT problems. We just don't get up and move enough!

Dr. Levine's studies show that the difference in NEAT activity varies by about 2.5 hours a day between the "lean" person and the "obese" person. So if the sedentary among us can increase their NEAT activities in a substantial way, it can make a difference of somewhere around 350 calories each and every day. Add even a mild restriction of 200-300 calories a day, and this can account for a pound per week.

The cumulative effect of surplus movement, increasing our daily NEAT activity energy expenditure, adds up and results in weight loss.

The real issue is that while it SOUNDS easy, trying to stand or walk an extra 2.5 hours a day isn't necessarily a practical goal right at the start. But there are things we can do, an once we start doing them, it should get easier. One of the fundamental laws of physics: a body at rest tends to stay at rest, and a body in motion tends to stay in motion.

So here's a short list of small NEAT activities that can make a difference. Now rest assured, it is only the CUMULATIVE effect that will cause you to SEE any real progress, but most of these are easy enough to do. We just need to "make appointments" for adding movement into our daily routines.

*Forgo the dishwasher...wash your dishes by hand.
*Park at a distant edge of the parking lot and walk a bit further to your destination.
*Don't carry all the groceries in the house in one trip...Carry less bags, and make a couple extra trips!
* Every time you push the "send" button on an email, stand up from your chair and march 5 steps in place before you sit back down.
* Get up from your desk and take a 10 minute walk every two hours. It will combat the "sitting disease" and refresh your mind as well as your body!
* Fidget and pace a little
* Move the alarm clock across the room so you have to get out of the bed to turn it off.
* Get a stability ball and use that to sit on while watching TV or reading a book. It will strengthen your core muscles, and you'll be more encourage to get up and walk a bit more often than if you sink into that comfy chair or couch.
* If you must watch TV, get your sedentary self off the furniture and march in place during every commercial.
* Use a step counter / Fit Bit and find out what your average daily step count is. Set a goal to increase your steps at least 10% per week.
* If you use public transportation, can you get off one or two stops early and walk a little more?
* Can you ride a bike to do errands locally?
* Use the stairs whenever you can.
* Play with the kids outside...have THEM take YOU for a walk, play catch, or hopscotch, or jump rope with them...Take a walk to the park...ride the swings..
* While on your cell phone, make a point to be standing or walking rather than just sitting.

I'm sure there are dozens of other creative ways to add movement and activity into your day in ways that won't make you feel like it's just too hard. Remember, NEAT-ness Counts!

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