You know that a sedentary lifestyle isn’t great for you. (No breaking newsflash there.) Being sedentary means spending much of your day sitting or lying down with little to no physical activity (like watching TV, staring at the computer, sitting at work, or commuting). It can lead to weight gain, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers, and other negative health outcomes.
And research suggests that you need at least 30 to 40 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity daily to make up for the negative impacts of a sedentary lifestyle—meaning sitting on your bum for most of the day. The good news is that just getting up and moving more throughout the day can make a big difference. There are piles of research noting the benefits of non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) movement.
NEAT is simply the amount of energy you burn doing day-to-day activities versus formal exercise. Think: Taking out the garbage, prepping meals, folding laundry, running errands, or even fidgeting at your desk (yes, we’re serious!). These might all seem like small things, but NEAT matters because it can account for up to 50 percent of your daily energy expenditure, while actual exercise—like going for a swim or brisk walk—may only account for 15 to 30 percent of that total. Surprising, but true.
More importantly, doing more NEAT movement can reduce your risk of developing metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and premature death from any cause, according to research. How much NEAT movement you need depends on different factors, such as your age, overall health, occupation, and social circumstances. But experts suggest you aim for at least 120 minutes a day of NEAT movement to combat a sedentary lifestyle.
Here are more reasons why NEAT can be so powerful and how you can do more of it.
You’re more likely to stick with it. NEAT movement is easy to integrate into your daily life—hint, hint, stand up as you read this, and you’ll be ahead of the game! It’s simple. And that means you’re apt to make it happen.
It can boost your weight care success. Over time, NEAT movement can bump up your calorie burn and lead to weight loss. A review published in the Journal of Exercise Nutrition & Biochemistry found that people with obesity sat, on average, two hours a day more than those with healthier BMIs. The upshot is that if participants with excess weight started doing small NEAT behaviors, they could burn an additional 350 calories a day—the equivalent of losing about 40 pounds a year.
Your disease risk may drop.The benefits of NEAT movement go beyond weight loss. As previously mentioned, you’re far less likely to develop chronic disease down the road if you add those extra steps and chores into your daily routine.
It’s as easy as sitting a little less. Check it out:
1.) Choose activities you enjoy. Do you like losing yourself in the aisles of Trader Joe’s? Or tending to your tomato plants? Whatever makes you happy—do that. It’s just like regular exercise: If you like it, you’re more likely to stick with it. It’ll help you commit to moving your body more often.
2.) Try to avoid spending the day in your office chair. Great ideas here are standing while you do your work (you can add a riser or get a standing desk) or sitting on a yoga ball to work your core muscles, even when parked at your desk.
3.) Rethink your commute. Walking to work is a great way to up your NEAT movement. But if driving is necessary, try parking farther from your office or getting off the subway a stop early so you can hoof it the rest of the way.
4.) Take the stairs. You’ve probably heard this a million times before. But some advice is age-old for a reason. Skipping the elevator and using your own two feet is a great way to get your heart rate up while getting to where you need to be.
5.) Turn sedentary activities into active ones. For instance, try reading the newspaper or watching TV while riding your stationary bike instead of chilling on the couch. You can also do steps in place during TV commercials or take a walk while you chat with a friend.
6.) Make those household chores count. Consider this a two-for: Is there laundry that needs to be folded? Are there light bulbs that need to be replaced? Does the fridge have yucky stuff that should be tossed? These are small but mighty NEAT chores that help you get your life in order.
7.) Two words: Active. Workstations. If you can get out of your desk chair and opt for a treadmill, bike, standing desk, or even sitting on a yoga ball, it could help. Here’s a fun fact: Active workstations may help reduce waist circumference, according to studies. You can also set reminders to stand up or stretch every hour or so.
At this point, you might be ready to go clean the whole house and fold every piece of laundry. But here’s a piece of advice: Be sure to slowly and gradually build up your NEAT movement. You’re more likely to maintain it this way.
Reach out to your Found community for extra support, and be sure to share ways you’re getting more movement throughout your day!
Found is among the largest medically-supported weight care clinics in the country, serving more than 200,000 members to date. To start your journey with Found, take our quiz.