NEAT is responsible for helping you lose weight, But what is NEAT, and what does it stand for?
NEAT stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis.
It’s the calories you burn through movement that aren’t considered exercise. For example, if you go for a run or lift weights, these calories burned are classed as ‘EAT’ (exercise activity thermogenesis), whereas all movement outside exercise is NEAT. Like making your bed, cleaning, fidgeting, standing, brushing your teeth, doing laundry, running errands, gardening, etc.
NEAT is commonly overlooked. When someone thinks of exercising to get fit or lose weight, the immediate mindset is to workout. Even calorie calculators ask how many times per week you workout, not necessarily how much you move daily.
For the average person, NEAT burns more calories daily than a one-hour workout.
NEAT can make up 15-50% of your total energy expenditure, a significant contributing factor that separates heavy people from lean people.
Think about your naturally lean friends who eat whatever they want and don’t workout. Chances are these people are more active in their daily lives, not just blessed with a fast metabolism that burns everything they eat.
Look at it like this: the average person burns 500 calories doing 1 hour of cardio and sleeps 6-8 hours a night. That means they are awake and moving around for 13-15 hours daily. Those 13-15 hours of movement might seem insignificant, but by the end of the day, all that movement adds up to more than 500 calories.
Another bonus to NEAT is that you don’t have to go to a gym, and it doesn’t require recovery time, whereas exercise does, meaning it’s easier to do a lot of it because it doesn’t make you tired or sore.
How TO Track NEAT?
The only natural way to gauge NEAT is by tracking our daily step count. When adding a step target to your routine, the first thing to do is check what you’ve been averaging daily. If you have a watch, iPhone, or Android, you should have a built-in step counter in the “health” or “heart” section.
Typically, most people average between 3000-5000 steps a day when they’re not aware of it. Sometimes even less due to our evolving lifestyle. We have more desk jobs, public transport options, and even food delivery apps that allow us to order food from the comfort of our homes rather than leaving the house to buy food and cook it ourselves.
If you fall into this bracket, the first goal is to increase your steps to around 8000. From here, slowly ramp it up over weeks and months. Aim for 10K+ steps per day, depending on your goals.
To make this sustainable, you need to build movement into your daily routine without it affecting work and life in general:
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Pace while talking on the phone or brushing your teeth
- Get off a few stops earlier on your commute.
- Park further away
- During your breaks at work, go for a walk.
- Have walking meetings.
- Stand instead of sitting.
- Clean your house
- Do your own grocery shopping, no instant cart.
- Go for a walk in the evening with your partner instead of watching TV.
NEAT trumps every cardio machine out there.
Now, I’m not saying not to do cardio. If you want to do cardio because it makes you feel good or you’re training for something, then do it. But stop thinking you need to do cardio to lose weight.
My advice, keep your diet dialed, lift weights, and keep your NEAT high. You’ll get the same results in less time and get more done.