Healthy options – 16.6.22

Ian Milarvie, exercise professional at Healthy Options.

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Get your NEAT up!

Following on from the article last week about ‘sitting disease’ and how damaging a lack of movement can be, we now look at the benefits of adding additional movement to your day or NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis).

NEAT is a term first described by Dr James Levine as the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise. It ranges from the energy expended walking to work, standing instead of sitting, performing garden work, taking the stairs instead of a lift, cleaning the house and even fidgeting. Even trivial physical activities can increase our metabolic rate and it is the cumulative impact of a multitude of activities that culminate in an individual’s daily NEAT.

NEAT explains most of an individual’s non-resting energy needs. Let’s look at standing for example. According to the American National Academy of Sports Medicine a 65 kilogram person can expect to burn 102 kcals per hour whilst seated but when standing that figure increases to 172 kcals. So one additional hour of standing could increase your daily calorie burn by some 70 kcals. This may not seem like much, but over a year that could be an additional 25,000 kcals just by being on your feet. You would have to complete over 80 30-minute runs at five miles per hour to burn the same number of calories.

Do you tell your youngsters to stop fidgeting? It turns out that fidgeting while sitting or standing increases the amount of calories you burn by 29 per cent and 38 per cent respectively.

Even if you go to the gym and spend an hour working out, there are still 23 hours left in the day.

Obviously we need some shut eye and if you sleep for eight hours that still leaves 15 hours where you can increase your NEAT.

So if you normally park your car as close to the supermarket entrance as possible, consider parking a little further away in the spot reserved for those who would like to live a little longer. Don’t avoid the stairs but actively seek them out to improve leg strength and bone density. Leave your chair and move away from your desk periodically to boost your metabolism and improve joint function. Walk or march on the spot to increase blood flow to your brain and enhance your spinal health. Try to limit your daily

TV time to one hour as besides being bad for your physical health, long periods of screen time can feed depression and anxiety.

So let’s get your NEAT up. Increasing your amount of NEAT activity is a great way to reduce sedentary activity and increase your daily calorie burn. It’s an important strategy for those who have challenges with more vigorous activities and formal exercise.

Most NEAT activity is reasonably low intensity and may not improve your cardiovascular fitness. It should therefore be used to complement (not replace) your target of at least 150 mins of moderate-intensity physical activity each week. But, as Tesco says ‘Every little helps’.

Good luck guys.