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When people think about losing weight, getting fitter or increasing strength, they tend to focus on their workouts. Whether it’s doing some HIIT training or going for a jog, putting in your maximum effort when exercising is important, but it’s not the main thing you should be focusing on.
The reality of it is that most of the calories that you burn occur in the 95% of your day where you’re not exercising. Walking the dog, cleaning the house, going grocery shopping; these all add up to an increased overall expenditure.
The term for this expenditure is NEAT, which stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. Generally, the higher your NEAT, the more movement you’re doing, and the more likely you are to stay fit and healthy, and to reach your goals. But, some of us will naturally have a higher NEAT than others.
For example, manual workers, such as those that work in agriculture or in warehouses and are on their feet all day, have a higher NEAT than those who work in offices. Generally, this is because less time is spent sedentary.
Increasing your NEAT is vital to staying healthy, as well as for contributing towards weight loss. Not only does moving more decrease your chances of developing health conditions, but it means you’re more likely to maintain your weight, have an improved mood and have increased energy.
If you put in 100% for your allotted exercise, but then sit on the sofa watching TV all day afterwards, you’re not getting the most of your workouts. It’s easy to think “I’ve already done some exercise today”, rather than making the most of the opportunity to move. This is where your NEAT comes in. Increasing your overall moving time, outside of your allotted exercising, means you’ll up your NEAT (and reap the rewards of all the benefits that come with this).
So, what steps can you take to increase your NEAT on a day-to-day basis? Here are some of our tops tips to make sure you get the most out of your movement.
There’s a reason why step goals are so hyped up. The more steps you do, the higher your NEAT will be. These two factors correlate to one another, so having a daily step goal means you set yourself a baseline, and your NEAT will remain pretty constant.
Rather than your NEAT yo-yoing, you guarantee yourself a certain amount of calories burned on your day-to-day, meaning that you can be confident that you’re moving more.
Aim for a minimum of 8,000 steps per day to start with. You don’t want to burn yourself out super quickly, and it’s better to increase your steps gradually than to go too much too soon. Aim to raise your daily steps to 10,000 over time, as this is recommended by the NHS. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t hit it one day, just make sure you brush yourself off and have another go the next (and we don’t blame you if you barely hit 1,000 on a weekend).
If you’re guilty of driving to the shop that’s only half a mile away, or driving a commute that could easily be done on the bike, then this is probably impacting your NEAT. By taking the easy route, you’re cheating yourself of that extra movement which would increase your non-exercise activity thermogenesis.
Every little helps, so try to make small changes by ditching the car more frequently. Start by biking to work once a week, or walking to the grocery store for your pint of milk. Figure out how you can try and use the car less every now and then, as it’ll probably help your wallet as well as your body (you’ll save loads on petrol).
An easy way to check that you’re moving more is to do so regularly. Try to make a pledge to move more every hour during the day, as these small changes will soon add up. Set a timer on your phone to go off at regular intervals, and get up and move around for a few minutes. Stretch your legs, grab a glass of water or walk up and down the stairs a few times. It’ll reset your mind as well as your body.
This tip is especially useful for office workers, as it can be easy to not realise how long you’ve been sitting for. Sitting too long can raise your chances of developing heart conditions, as well as some types of cancer and diabetes, so keeping moving is beneficial in more ways than one.
Whether it’s in your routine to take the dog on an extra long walk at the weekend, or to do some gardening every Sunday, having a hobby that requires a bit more movement is a sure way to get active. By having this hobby as part of your routine, you’re more likely to see it as less of a chore, increasing your NEAT without even knowing it.
As we’ve mentioned before on our blog, having an accountability partner has tonnes of benefits (and we definitely recommend it). Setting goals alongside another person means you’re more likely to stick to it, and you’ll see better results in the process, so try implementing the above tips with a friend.
Whether you’re walking the dog with your partner, getting out of the office at lunchtime with your colleagues or simply setting a step goal with your best mate, having an accountability partner is a sure way to take the weight off your back.
Don’t worry, it’ll get easier. Improving your NEAT is all about consistency, and even though it may be difficult to start with, like any habit it’ll becoming the new normal.
What are your favourite ways to improve your NEAT? Let us know on Instagram!