It is Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. First, thermogenesis is fat burning. NEAT is fat-burning or calorie burning that is not related to a typical planned exercise, such as a gym workout, aerobics class, run, bike ride, etc. It can be any activity specifically done to expend energy. A non-exercise thermogenic activity burns fat and is usually classified as necessary labor, not exercise, that still burns calories. Therefore, it is the things we DO when we are not sitting on our bottoms.
In the past, most everyone stayed healthy and lean by just going about their normal everyday activities and chores. However, in this day and age elevators have replaced the use of stairs, leaf blowers have replaced the need for rakes, dishwashers replace the act of manually washing dishes, cars replace biking and walking and the computer and email have drastically reduced the amount of activity in our normal day. According to researcher Dr. James Levine the NEAT activities account for “100-200 kcal/day (kcal is the same as calorie); a caloric deficit that potentially could account for the entire obesity epidemic.” Levine is a doctor from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota who has studied the rold NEAT plays in metabolism. He determines that folks who tap their feet, fidget, walk while on the phone and such burn up to 350 more calories a day than others who sit still. (That adds up to 37 pounds in a year!)
In fact, research shows that the majority of the calories we burn are actually from NEAT and not from our hard earned workouts! Here is the example: a 180-pound adult who burns 2500 ocalories per day and runs five miles daily (at a six minute per mile pace) is burning 750 calories at each running session, according to the Health Discovery Calorie Counter, but the majority of energy that the individual expends (the remaining 1750 calories) are from NEAT activities. Hmmm. . .
The basic metabolic rate (BMR) can even be interpreted as NEAT activities of the body systems. Breathing, digestion, maintaining heartbeat and blood flow are non-exercise activities inside of the body that consume Calories. The Mayo Clinic article "Metabolism and Weight Loss: How you Burn Calories" explains that "Your basal metabolic rate accounts for about 60 to 75 percent of the calories you burn every day." Therefore, non-exercise activities account for a large amount of calories burned.
However, please don't read this as a reason to give up your exercise routine or as a reason to not begin one!
This is just another factor to be considered and gives us a reason to think about non-exercise activities and to think about the effort involved in standing up and walking to the television to change the channel compared to sitting and clicking a remote, actually getting up and taking a walk rather than watching TV!
According to Levine, the average individual misses dozens of opportunities to engage in such mundane exercises and the obesity epidemic is the result. So, we can all think of ways to use NEAT in our daily routines. Simple measures like washing dishes, using the stairs, parking farther away from the entrance at the grocery store, mowing grass, standing while talking on the phone and when possible, walking to the bank, drugstore or other feasible errand.
I'll bet you can think of someone who doesn't partake in a lot of traditional exercise, but always seems healthy and trim and always seems to be moving -now you know how they stay slim! Therefore, after a little bit of research I didn't feel quite so bad about skipping a traditional workout yesterday.
I think I'll cut the grass tomorrow. . .
WHAT ARE SOME THINGS YOU DO TO STAY ACTIVE OUTSIDE OF TRADITIONAL EXERCISE ROUTINES?
Levine, James. “Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis.” Mayo Clinic. 2010