“If your heart rate isn’t elevated for at least 30 minutes, it doesn’t count as exercise.”
The problem is, many of us can’t stand the idea of 30 sweaty minutes of anything aerobic. Or at least, we don’t do it regularly enough to have any measurable impact on our health and weight.
For some people the very idea of getting pink-cheeked and sweaty is enough to make them feel exhausted, and retreat to the TV.
If “not in a million years” springs to mind at the thought of exercise, you’re going to love today’s post.
There’s a growing body of evidence that suggests that even short bouts of low- intensity physical activity can have substantial health benefits.
It’s called Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis.
It’s a concept that’s been proposed by Dr James Levine, who defines it as:
“The energy expenditure of all physical activities other than volitional sporting-like exercise.”
Basically, NEAT includes activities such as walking your kids to school, strolling to work, dancing, taking the stairs, hanging out the washing, folding laundry, cooking and gardening.
Or, a day in the life of our grandparents before we got all technological, and became very, very sedentary.
Is NEAT really exercise though?
I can understand why you might feel sceptical that activities like gardening or cooking could have a measurable impact on health. After all, those things aren’t ‘exercise’, right?
Fortunately, turns out that our bodies don’t care whether those activities are ‘exercise’ or not.
Levine’s work shows that NEAT burns an average of 330 calories per day, with some people burning up to 1000. That’s a lot of calories in anyone’s book.
Even more important than calories burned though, is the fact that increasing your NEAT reduces sedentary time, itself a strong predictor of both death and disease.
The beauty of NEAT
The beauty of NEAT is that the activities quickly add up and take little extra effort. There’s no need to purchase new gym kit or go near a treadmill. Simply by changing your focus to moving your body more, and being less sedentary.
Unsurprisingly, Levine’s research shows that overweight people perform drastically less NEAT and are much more sedentary than their happy weight counterparts.
So, how can you add more NEAT to your day? Luckily, it’s pretty easy.
5 easy tips for getting NEAT
Go ‘old fashioned’ with household chores
Give the dishwasher a day off, skip the car wash, ditch the leaf blower and use a basket at the grocers. Hang your washing on the line, give the ride-on mower alternate weeks off and push the mower instead. Cook from scratch more, and eat ready-to-eat / takeaways less.
You can see that none of these tasks are big in isolation. But when you do your chores the way granny did – instead of using technological ‘advances’ – they add up. And while you’re moving, you’re not sedentary.
Take the stairs
This one’s obvious. But how often do you take the elevator up or down a single floor? Cut it out! The elevator doesn’t save time, and it deprives you of NEAT.
Nobody says you have to walk all 20 flights. Get out on the 18th and walk the last two floors. Every day nudge the number up.
Quit driving everywhere
As a nation we’ve become obsessed with driving: to the shops, to the office, to the gym. Instead walk or bike to work, or whenever you’re performing errands. If that’s not an option, take public transport, which means you’ll have a short walk at both ends of the trip.
If you absolutely have to drive, park away from the door and walk the last bit. It might only add five minutes of walking to your day, but that’s five minutes of NEAT you wouldn’t otherwise get.
Have another cuppa
This sounds weird, but part of my own NEAT strategy is to drink green tea. A lot. When you’re constantly sipping fluids, you’ll need to pee. Often. That’s a five minute stroll every hour, right there.
Why not crank it up and use a bathroom in another part of your building? And take the stairs. It’s easy to forget to take a short break every hour, but it’s impossible to forget to go pee.
Take a lunchtime stroll
If you’re one of the lucky ones who has a daily lunch break, why not use it for a short walk? A ten minute walk, every day, (even every other day) adds up. And you’ll feel a million times better than if you spent your whole break sitting at your computer.
I get that not all of these examples will be applicable to everyone, all of the time.
And clearly, nobody’s saying that you’ll get marathon-fit or you’ll be the Biggest Loser, with NEAT alone. That would require some exercise, darling.
However, I trust this post has helped you see that with small conscious changes you can improve your health and burn calories simply by moving your body and decreasing your sedentary time. Go on – your body will love you for it.
Non-sedentary love etc, Avril
PS: If you’re sitting there reading these words thinking, “I knooooooooooow all of this, I just don’t do it!”, feel free to drop me a line. Hypnosis can help you do the doing that you know you need to do to lose weight.