That’s NEAT

That’s NEAT

Last week we talked about the importance of movement, but this isn’t all about exercise.  There’s also NEATNon-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis– which is a measure of the calories you burn just doing everyday activities.

Our bodies use the energy in the food we consume to:

  • Simply survive – powering the brain, heart, liver, muscles and other organs that are required to continue working even while we are asleep.
  • Digest food and turn it into energy. Yes, it takes energy to covert food into energy!
  • Move – whether that’s deliberate exercise or anything else.

Consume fewer calories than we use above and on the whole we’d expect to lose weight; consume more and we should expect the opposite; although we are often surprised when this happens!

The NHS recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity a week, so where does NEAT fit into this?

Well, by doing housework, walking around your home, even brushing your teeth or standing up from sitting on the sofa and you are burning calories.  These calories amount to hundreds per day, and small changes can have a real impact.

And that’s the bit we overlook – small changes can make a huge difference when compounded over time.

Sceptical?  Consider this: imagine making a 1% improvement to something every day.

Sounds totally trivial doesn’t it?  But 1%, compounded over a year is over 37% better after a year.  To lose 500g of weight, you’ll need to burn about 3,500 calories more than you consume.  But in week, that’s just 500 calories a day.

So, back to NEAT.  How could you burn those extra 500 calories?  Here are two really easy ones to embrace when working from home:

  • Walk more – get up, move around and count your steps. Whilst the 10,000 steps a day was a made-up target, it’s still true that steps make a difference.  Walking 4km or just over 5,000 steps could burn up 250 calories and 15 mins of walking and talking (rather than sitting in front of Teams/Zoom video calls) could burn over 50 calories.
  • Do some housework – in 45 minutes, an average person can burn 255 calories gardening, 230 calories washing the car or cleaning the windows.

And lastly, don’t rely on motivation but embrace habit.  Moving more and maintaining a healthy weight are both outcome measures.  In the excellent book – Atomic Habits, which we have listed on, author James Clear makes the case for tiny changes that create remarkable results – over time.  But great habits aren’t just about goals; they are also about systems.

A simple system might be never to book video calls back-to-back but always leave 15 minutes between them; another one could be to always take a 15-minute walk after lunch.  In the end, it all adds up!

Want to know more? Search the range of resources here on There are book recommendations, links to websites, TED talks and worksheets and we are always adding to the list! Click here to begin.

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