Let's Talk About: Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT)
Physical activity is one of the core features of your wellness journey. The human body was not made to stay inactive for so long. However, our society has forced us into situations where we are often sitting for long stretches of the day. Many of us only get up from our desks to use the bathroom throughout the day. Even when we are home, many of us tend to sit on the couch and watch tv, or read a book. Most of us have heard how important physical activity can be for our brains and bodies. Yet when we think about getting more physical activity in, we often feel overwhelmed by the thought of another "to do" on our list. Starting a new exercise program can feel time consuming. And let's face it, many of us don't really enjoy exercising that much.
Whether you work out every day, some days, or no days, you can add in some non-exercise activity thermogenesis to your daily routine. NEAT is the energy we use throughout the day that is not spent on eating, sleeping, or a specific exercise. NEAT encompasses everything else, including standing, walking, fidgeting, expressively using our arms when we talk, and cleaning. Many of the things we already do in a day count as NEAT activities. And by understanding what those activities are, we can incorporate more into our day.
For example, the simple act of standing up while working can create more NEAT. Many of us have tasks throughout the day we could do standing instead of sitting. Maybe you could get a standing desk for your office. Have a phone call to make? Try putting in headphones and pacing around while you talk! Parked at the grocery store? Look for a spot a little farther away than usual. Cleaning the house is a great example. All those tasks increase our movement throughout the day.
If you want to start adding in more movement in your day, but don't think the idea of going to the gym is going to stick, try taking the stairs at work. Maybe you can get up and stretch or do some yoga poses before your next bathroom break. You could take your kids for a walk after school, or turn that meeting into a walking meeting. Recognizing that many of these options are with able-bodied people in mind, there are many ways to increase your NEAT activities even if you are differently abled, and speaking to your trusted healthcare provider is a great way to get started.
In an ideal world, we'd all be getting in plenty of NEAT while also making time for more purposeful physical exercise in a day. However, this isn't an ideal world we are living in. Sometimes we need to be adaptable and figure other options out. And even those who have a specific, defined workout routine need to consider NEAT. This doesn't need to be a huge task. Finding little ways to get in more activity throughout the day can be fun and rewarding, and will add up over time. So consider making multiple trips back to your car for your groceries. Walk down to the mailbox every day. Get that garden up and running. Whatever you can do in your day will pay off dividends in the future! Let's get moving!