What if there was a highly effective habit you were missing, one that will truly lead to significant results in your health, fitness and general well-being? Something so simple that it is often overlooked and rarely put into consistent action to support health and fitness improvements.
It’s extremely common for individuals to put all their focus and energy on making it to the gym for an intense hour of training without much focus on the remaining 23 hours of their day. No matter how hard these individuals try, it is nearly impossible to out-train a sedentary lifestyle—period!
After working with hundreds of individuals with varying goals, it is true that even the perfect meal plan and highly executed workout routines can lead to insignificant results if a sedentary lifestyle is wrapped into the mix.
Did you know, assuming you train at a moderate intensity for an hour, that your workouts only consist of 10% of your daily energy expenditure, whereas Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis accounts for a whopping 20%? The remaining 70% includes your resting metabolic rate, which is the amount of energy your body expends to support organ function at rest. Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, also known as NEAT, includes the energy expended for everything that is not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercises. Examples include walking or biking, performing yard work, cleaning the house, etc.
In the graph above, TDEE stands for total daily energy expenditure and BMR stands for basal metabolic rate also known as your resting energy expenditure (REE); how much energy your body needs to conduct its basic necessities such as breathing. NREE stands for nonresting energy expenditure and includes non-exercise activity thermogenesis, the thermogenic effect of food, and exercise activity thermogenesis.
Those with higher levels non-exercise activity thermogenesis each day show more overall weight loss and better energy balance (shook, 2015). Due to the increased blood flow and lymphatic drainage that movement brings, those who have a more active lifestyle also show faster recovery between their training sessions, resulting in increased performance and better aerobic capacity.
Let’s say you sleep a full eight hours per night and exercise for one hour per day. How do you spend the remaining 16 hours? For most Americans, unfortunately, this time is spent sitting at a desk, in a car, eating food and/or getting home after a long day only to sit some more on their couch to watch TV.
By incorporating more movement into your day, not only will you increase your energy expenditure throughout the day, which is very effective for creating a caloric deficit, but you will also enjoy many other health benefits.
Aside from increasing your daily energy levels, studies show that increasing NEAT sustains lipoprotein lipase (LPL) levels, an essential enzyme that converts fat into energy, whereas a sedentary lifestyle has been shown to reduce these levels. (Epub 2005 Sep 29)
Increasing low-level movement throughout the day is also important for building your mitochondria energy production abilities as well as increasing the density of mitochondria within your cells. (Exp Physiol. 2016) Cellular efficiency is a topic that is often overlooked and is crucial in maintaining a healthy and able body. Mitochondria, also known as the powerhouse of the cell, have a crucial role in taking in nutrients, breaking them down and creating energy-rich molecules for each and every cell. You can think of aging as a decrease in the efficiency of our mitochondria to manufacture and efficiently convert energy. Walking essentially can stave off the mitochondrial decline associated with aging!
Whether your goals are to lose fat, increase performance or live a long and vital life, focusing on increasing your daily movement is crucial, and Central Athlete’ s stance is that it is a biological necessity.
“A threshold for achieving energy balance is an activity level corresponding to 7,116 steps per day, an amount achievable by most adults.” -Shook et al. 2015
How can you increase your NEAT throughout the day?
- Park at the farthest parking spot, always—at your office, at the grocery store, at the mall, etc.
- Take the long way to the restroom, every time!
- Walk ten minutes after each meal, ideally outside with sun exposure. This also helps regulate your blood sugar’s response to your last meal.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Purchase a step counter to create daily awareness; FitBit, pedometer, apple watch, Garmin, etc.
- Complete a long evening walk; great to wind down and reconnect with yourself and/or your spouse.
- If you have a dog, walking your dog one to two times daily is a biological necessity for them as well as yourself!
There are many things outside of training and nutrition, such as NEAT, but also important factors like sleep, stress, productivity, time management, etc., that are essential to your long-term progress and health. Understanding where you can create the biggest physiological changes with the least amount of psychological resistance is the trick, and Central Athlete is here to do just that. We create a personalized plan that leaves you feeling empowered while moving you objectively towards your individual goals. Interested in learning more? Click the link below to meet with a Central Athlete coach today!
J Appl Physiol (1985). 2006 Jan;100(1):249-57. Epub 2005 Sep 29,
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 102, Issue 6, 1 December 2015, Pages 1332–1338,
Exp Physiol. 2016 Jan;101(1):17-22. doi: 10.1113/EP085319. Epub 2015 Nov 17.