How to Improve Your Health by Increasing NEAT?


Most of us spend hours sitting – at our work desks, while commuting, for leisure activities, and for meals. Our bodies are meant for and thrive on movement.

However, we spend most of our waking hours just sitting. While we want to be fit, we neither have the time nor the will to work out. We daydream about healthy bodies, sitting in a rather shoddy posture, and being avidly sedentary. Sad but true!


As per WHO, if you’re getting less than 90 minutes of physical activity per week, you’re sedentary. It is treacherous how sedentary we people have become.

Of course, desk jobs are the biggest culprit and so is the twining of technology in our lives. Want a meal? Order it. Want to wash utensils? Dishwasher. Want groceries? Blinkit.

Did you know, around 2 million people die every year due to a lack of physical exercise? We’re well aware that movement and exercise are vital for our bodies to remain healthy and function optimally. But with the present lifestyles, where do we fit in movements?


Isn’t gymming enough to stay fit?

In order to be healthy, most of us resort to one common solution — joining a gym. But, let’s do some maths, shall we? Assuming I go to the gym four times a week, for an hour each.

That makes 4 hours of gymming per week, which has a total of 168 hours. Pop! Here bursts the bubble that gymming for 2.3% of a week is sufficient in an otherwise sedentary life. You really need to rope in several small activities on a daily basis. 


The good news is – it’s not as tough as it sounds. The idea is to introduce bouts of movement throughout the day, and the possibilities here are endless. Take the stairs to your office, if your office is on the tenth floor, at least start by climbing up three flights.

Cook your own food. Walk while you’re on the phone. Stand in the metro. All this will together add up and significantly impact your physical movement and hence, your physical and mental well-being. When you decide to increase your movements every day, you open a pandora’s box of options, just by being a little vigilant.

Apart from your exercise, whatever time you spend moving, you’re adding up to the activity your body and mind are getting. And this is where the concept of NEAT comes into the picture.


what is NEAT


But what is NEAT?

NEAT is the abbreviation for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. Our body needs energy and it burns calories for three functions — resting, digestion, and physical activities.

Resting and digestion require a very little amount of energy and so very few calories are burnt during these two processes. However, carrying out any physical activity, from our day-to-day tasks like brushing our teeth or typing a mail to working out in a gym requires a lot of energy.

When one thinks of losing weight or burning calories, the major emphasis is always on physical activities. That is all that can be controlled when it comes to burning calories.

One way of instantly burning calories is working out, where you can burn around 150-450 calories in an hour.

The only issue is if you are working out for an hour but you’re absolutely sedentary the other 23 hours of a day, it is of no use. And the other and more efficient way is increasing movements throughout the day.


NEAT, simply put, is the energy expended or calories burnt during any physical activity that you do other than a sport-like activity or exercise.

This may be anything like walking, standing, fidgeting, typing, storing your groceries in the fridge, cooking, bathing your dog, or standing at the work table, everything requires energy and burns calories.

If you try a little harder, you can mend your day in a way that NEAT actually amounts to maximum energy expenditure and calorie consumption.


And how will NEAT help me?

One advantage of NEAT is obviously the fact that you burn more calories in total. This helps you maintain – at best, if not reduce – weight and keeps obesity at bay. But there’s more to NEAT than simply maintaining or losing weight.

As humans, our brains as well as our bodies are meant for movement and not for sitting all day in one place. Sedentary behavior can cause deterioration of muscles and joints – especially of the back and legs, it puts us at risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, varicose veins, sleep issues, and a lot more.

These harmful consequences of sitting all day can be substantially diminished by including spells of movement (NEAT) throughout the day. It literally increases your life expectancy.

There are so many other benefits of including NEAT exercises in your life – for your mind, heart, and body. NEAT exercises keep your heart health blooming and reduce the risk of several cardiovascular diseases.

It lowers inflammation in the body, controls blood sugar, relieves stress, and improves mental health and it helps you recover from an injury faster. Yes, all of this for just moving your body whenever you can. It’s a deal worth taking, isn’t it?

And obviously, it’s free, doesn’t require skill or membership or special clothes, and it doesn’t even tire you. It’s simply a mindful attempt at improvising your daily routine – easy but impactful!


Suggest some ways to increase NEAT

Some really easy ways to increase your NEAT are:

  1. Walk: walk as much as you can, preferably set a goal for a certain number of steps and try to achieve it every single day. 
  2. Walk while you talk: have a phone call? Walk while talking. Have an in-person meeting? Make it a walking meeting. If you just walk while you talk, you’ll realize you can cover a substantial part of your step goals just this way.
  3. Take the stairs: at home, at the mall, in the subway – drop the elevators and escalators and just take the stairs, as many flights as you can. It is exceptionally effective when it comes to burning calories. 
  4. Stand: standing burns far more calories than sitting does. Stand in the metro, and you can also get a standing desk for work. Ideally, for every 20 minutes you sit, you should get up and move around for 2 mins, at least.
  5. Clean your house: try to put everything back in its place, every single day. It’s a great way of moving around and also shoots up your dopamine, making you really happy.
  6. Cook your own meals: when you cook your meals, you’re moving your hands and legs, all at once – it’s a great exercise that also incentivizes you with healthy home-cooked meals daily.
  7. Get yourself an exercise ball: balancing while sitting on an exercise ball while working or watching TV or just otherwise engages a lot of muscles and also helps promote good posture.
  8. Play more with your pets and kids: engage in physical activities with your pets and kids on a daily basis for as long as your schedule allows.

Research shows that not moving around or keeping yourself active will nullify the hard work you put into your workouts. Giving up sedentary behavior and increasing NEAT indeed improves the overall results of your workouts.

So continue to remind yourself that just by introducing more movement in your day-to-day routine, you can avoid several health issues and tread on a path that leads to a healthy mind and body. You’ve been reading this for quite a few minutes now, you should go walk around for another few!


Vidhi Arya

Vidhi is a lawyer by profession who is also studying French on the side. She is a dog mom, a travel enthusiast and is keenly fond of Indian crafts and handlooms.

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