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I’ll admit it: I’m no fan of exercise. Just the thought of running or doing push-ups makes me break out in hives!
So when I started hearing about a technique that can burn more calories than working out, one that I could incorporate into my daily routine, I thought, “Sign me up!”
Turns out this method for burning calories is for real. Here’s what it is, why it works so well, and how you can make it part of your daily routine.
Expending extra calories with little effort is NEAT
Perhaps you’re someone who carves out time for exercise each day. Unlike me, you make sure that you sweat and get your heart pumping on a daily basis.
But you also might be driving the half-mile to pick up your coffee each day instead of taking a 15-minute walk. Or you may be that person who takes the elevator up to your office instead of climbing the three flights of stairs.
No big deal, right? I mean, you exercise every day.
Actually, it’s a bigger deal than you think.
More than half the calories you burn each day are beyond your control. It’s a relatively fixed number…
- Fifty to sixty percent go toward supporting basic bodily functions — your basal metabolic rate.
- Another ten percent goes toward digesting and metabolizing food.
- That leaves about thirty to forty percent of calories available for all your physical activity, including exercise.
That’s where non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or NEAT, comes in…
NEAT is essentially all the calories that a person burns through daily activity excluding purposeful physical exercise.
Researchers are finding that even small behavior changes can increase or diminish how much NEAT you get — and that this can shape your health in powerful ways…
NEAT prevents weight gain
Nearly 25 years ago, endocrinologist Dr. James Levine began to examine how NEAT affects metabolic health.
He looked at what happened to 16 non-obese people when they were fed an extra 1000 calories a day for two months.
Turns out it wasn’t exercise that predicted how well someone was able to avoid putting on fat.
It was their level of NEAT.
“People who have the capacity to burn off extra calories and remain thin are people who can switch on their NEAT,” says Dr. Levine.
And avoiding obesity isn’t the only benefit of getting more NEAT in your life.
Being sedentary is associated with other health problems, from cardiovascular disease to joint problems to mental health issues.
The internal Apple Watch that tries to keep us thin
Dr. Cathy Kotz is a biologist who studies obesity at the University of Minnesota.
Dr. Kotz was studying a compound in the brains of animals known as orexin, and how it influences feeding behavior.
But she noticed that orexin had another, unexpected effect.
“Through a lot of experiments, we discovered that when we either give the animals more orexin, or we stimulate their orexin neurons in the brain, it causes them to move more,” she says.
Orexin is also produced in the human hypothalamus.
It’s possible, says Dr. Kotz, that stimulating orexin in humans, either naturally or through medication, could eventually act like an Apple Watch, telling us, “Hey, it’s been a while – you should stand up and move around.”
10 ways to get more NEAT
Here’s a finding from a totally different study…
For every 287 calories a person burned per day, there was about a 30 percent lower chance of dying in the next ten years.
But it wasn’t exercise that made the difference — it was NEAT.
A pretty good reason to add some NEAT to your life, right?
Here are ten ways to do that and burn those calories:
- Walking through the grocery store
- Climbing stairs
- Bobbing your legs up at down while sitting
- Cooking dinner
- Using a standing desk at work
- Chewing gum
- Pick the farthest parking spot and walk
- Washing the car
There are others — but you get the idea. Keep on moving!
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Nonexercise Activity Thermogenesis in Obesity — Mayo Clinic
What is NEAT exercise? Plus, 6 easy ways to do more — Women’s Health