What is NEAT?

How does my body use energy?

Your body uses energy in four ways. 

The first is just to keep you alive for example your brain working and through breathing and digestion. This is known as your resting metabolic rate and would be the energy your body would use if you did nothing all day.

There is also an increase in your metabolic rate after you have eaten, this is known as the thermic effect of meals.

We also use energy when we move our bodies. This could be through exercise (the physical activity we do that increases our heart rate and gets us out of breath) or through NEAT.

What is NEAT?

NEAT stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. This basically means any energy we use carrying out daily activities that aren’t exercise, eating or sleeping. Some examples of NEAT activity include tidying, gardening, washing the car, standing, carrying shopping, playing with your children or walking up the stairs.

Exercise tends to be quite a small part of our day which means it is really important to think about how active we are through the day and how we can reduce sedentary behaviour and increase our non exercise activity. NEAT activity can be a significant part of our total energy expenditure.

In the UK, adults can spend an average of 9 hours a day sitting down. A sedentary lifestyle can have an impact on our health and studies have shown that it increases our risk of overweight and obesity, some cancers, type 2 diabetes and early death.

One way we can measure our NEAT activity is by counting how many steps we do. It is recommended that we do 10,000 steps daily. This is easily reached if we have an active job but if we are sat down at a desk we need to really think about how we can move more.

Remember that this is a guideline to work towards, we all have different circumstances which affect what we can do. Why not set yourself a realistic goal that you can gradually increase over time?

The NHS gives us some advice for how we adults can increase the number of steps and the amount of NEAT we do each day.

  • stand on the train or bus

  • take the stairs and walk up escalators

  • set a reminder to get up every 30 minutes

  • place a laptop on a box or similar to work standing

  • stand or walk around while on the phone

  • take a walk break every time you take a coffee or tea break

  • walk to a colleague's desk instead of emailing or calling

  • swap some TV time for more active tasks or hobbies

You can read more about advice for children and older adults here.

It's clear that it's important for us to be less sedentary and move more. What could you do to increase your NEAT?

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