The Role of NEAT in Your Metabolism

Hey Angels and Alphas,

We’re all looking for ways to maximize our daily activities and our caloric output, especially those of us dealing with weight loss. That being said, there’s only so much exercise someone can realistically fit into a healthy day. But what most of us don’t realize is that there are ways in which we can keep our metabolism going that doesn’t include exercise – non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT.)


NEAT is a component of your daily metabolism that is often overlooked in the fitness world, and it refers to the energy expanded by doing regular activities unrelated to planned exercise or metabolic functions. Other well-known components of your metabolism include physical activity, the thermic effect of food, as well as basal metabolic rate, which includes the energy you use for completing basic functions of life such as sleeping and breathing.


Therefore, NEAT basically encompasses the energy expended doing everything other than digesting food, completing basic functions, and partaking in planned exercise. This includes a wide range of activities from maintaining your posture, walking, gardening, loading groceries, cleaning, clicking a pen, typing on your computer, everything.

There are countless activities that fall into this category, resulting in NEAT being the most controllable and variable aspect of your daily metabolism. While activities such as random fidgeting can seem small and meaningless, manipulating your total daily NEAT can have a massive impact on your calorie expenditure and weight control. In fact, low-level NEAT is usually associated with obesity.

Adults that engage in athletic training are often instructed to rest, get extra sleep, reduce time on their feet, and generally reduce their overall activity outside of purposeful exercise. This is thought to preserve their energy stores for performance goals as well as reduce the risk of fatigue and injury. 

That being said, research shows that even moderate to intense physical activity will not compensate for sedentary behaviors even if you’re an elite athlete. These people oriented around fitness can actually help improve lean muscle tissue and weight management through increasing their NEAT.


Let’s explore a few ways you can improve your daily NEAT and keep the metabolic activity of your body high every day:


Look around you and assess your daily environment. Find the places where you spend large chunks of time and map out your general movements. From here, you can begin to target big problem areas and work out a plan of attack. 

For example, if you’re someone who typically drives from store to store in a strip mall, you can park at one end and walk to the store. Another example would be to track your steps each day and try to reach a specific daily step goal by taking the stairs, walking around the office, getting short breaks to fill your water bottle, getting more fresh air, and more.


Chores aren’t really the most fun of activities, but they do add a decent amount of calorie burn throughout your day. Start your week by making a quick checklist of the household things that you need to accomplish – cleaning, laundry, dusting, taking out the trash, grocery shopping, gardening, and more. Break that down into a daily to-do list. 

This will help you get a little extra movement in your day, boosting your NEAT. These tasks can also boost the overall muscle strength and tone while preventing injury as they basically utilize small muscle movements that many exercises tend to neglect. If you are able to acknowledge the health benefits of these otherwise dull and repetitive tasks, you will be more motivated to keep up with your to-do list.


Standing still and sitting are overrated. The less time you spend without moving, the less NEAT you get. Click your pen when you’re at your desk, tap your foot while you read e-mails, and get up from your seat to pace the room while on the phone. Try to incorporate your daily movements throughout your day and make them meaningful. 

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic discovered that these tiny movements often attributed to restlessness throughout an 8-hour workday can pretty much add up to the calorie burn you would get out of a normal gym session. If the next time you wait for your coffee to get ready or you’re reheating something in the microwave, you just do a few stretches, lunges, jumping jacks, or other meaningful small movements, you’ll be doing your body a service.

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