NEAT Ideas to Lose Weight

NEAT Ideas to Lose Weight

I was recently asked by for some insights on NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis). Here’s the follow-up for my readers.

Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) is not what you might consider organized exercise, but it’s a very do-able way to increase the calories you burn over the course of a day.  Let’s break it down:

Non-Exercise is just what it sounds like. I like to think of NEAT as HIIT’s (High Intensity Interval Training) cousin. NEAT is more refined, doesn’t break a sweat, and does not draw attention. NEAT activities are those that are easily incorporated into daily living. They don’t require a change of clothes, special equipment, or a shower afterward.

Activity is not about adding a few more minutes to your spin class or a few more reps to your weight lifting routine, rather it’s the little things you can do throughout each day to increase the calories you use and hence, put a dent in your caloric balance and hence, your waistline. I’ve shared a list of tips below.

Thermogenesis is a fancy way of saying “heat making.”

How is NEAT related to weight loss?

If we follow the standard weight loss equation of energy in + energy out = weight, increasing energy output leads to weight loss.  NEAT is the most variable component of energy expenditure, with ranges varying from 15% of expenditure in sedentary individuals to 50% or more in active individuals. People with occupations that keep them behind a desk will have lower NEAT scores than those who work in physically demanding jobs, such as wait staff or jobs that involve manual labor (think landscaping, housekeeping, or parenting toddlers). If your job isn’t one that includes moving, lifting, climbing, or stretching, creating habits that increase your NEAT score by moving, lifting, climbing, or stretching will support weight loss and management.

In our convenience-driven world, we have minimized or eliminated much of our daily activity. In days passed, NEAT activities included gathering water, feeding coal or wood into a furnace or fire for heat, and hanging our laundry on a line to dry. No longer do most Americans use a scrub board to wash their clothes, chop wood to feed their cookfires, or walk as a primary form of transportation. Though our modern conveniences are great time-savers, the trade-off comes in decreased NEAT opportunities that until recently were part of human existence. It’s not that we don’t have a bevy of options to daily increase our NEAT, we just need to be more intentional about working them into our day.

Here’s a list of Top Ten NEAT tips.

  1. When you can, stand rather than sit; walk rather than ride, unless it’s a bike.
  2. Take the stairs rather than the elevator. Walk the steps of escalators.
  3.  Park at the farthest spot from the store entrance.
  4. Carry your groceries in one bag at a time rather than load all 800 pounds of them onto your arms to make just one trip.
  5. Sing in the car. Really loud. Car dance at stoplights if you don’t mind the looks from other drivers. You may want to save this for long, dusty country roads, but it does your body and mind good to belt out favorite tunes.
  6. Do toe rises when waiting for your coffee to brew or while brushing your teeth.
  7. Bend or stretch to close cabinets, dishwasher doors, or drawers. Don’t use your food to tap them closed if you can involve more muscle groups and close doors properly.
  8. Practice “zipping up” you lower abs when you are seated or standing. Imagine that you are “zipping” up your lower abs and rather than sucking in, engage your lower abs to be tight and flat.
  9. Clean your own house or at least give the Roomba a break and vacuum it yourself.
  10. Chew your food thoroughly. Really. Not only does the extra chewing count toward NEAT but it makes for better digestion and nutrient absorption.


Embrace being cold. As we see autumn on the horizon, use the dropping temperatures to your NEAT advantage. It takes a energy to keep a human body warm, so keep the thermostat set a cooler temperatures and embrace the NEAT benefits of thermogenesis.

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