When it comes to losing weight or determining how many calories you need to eat in a day, most people know that you have to think about the calories burned in structured exercise such as running, cycling, lifting weights, and HIIT workouts.
However, there are also other contributing factors to your daily physical activity that affect how many calories you burn in a day, namely NEAT.
But, what is NEAT? Is NEAT exercise? How much daily NEAT should you get? What are tips to increase your daily NEAT calories?
In this article, we will discuss what NEAT physical activity entails, what counts as NEAT exercise, and tips for how to increase daily NEAT calories.
We will cover the following:
- What Is NEAT for Weight Loss?
- What Counts as NEAT Exercise and NEAT Activities?
- Tips to Increase NEAT Calories
Let’s jump in!
What Is NEAT for Weight Loss?
Most people have not heard of the term NEAT, but if they have, they are familiar with NEAT weight loss or NEAT physical activity to lose weight.
NEAT is an acronym that refers to non-exercise activity thermogenesis.
So, what is non-exercise activity thermogenesis?
Non-activity thermogenesis, or NEAT physical activity, is one of the components of total daily energy expenditure.
As the term implies, total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) refers to the total number of calories burned per day.
It is composed of basal metabolic rate (BMR), calories burned through deliberate workouts, calories burned by physical activity from daily life activities, and calories burned digesting and metabolizing food.
The calories burned through delivered workouts are categorized as EAT, which stands for exercise activity thermogenesis.
Thermogenesis is basically just a term that means producing heat.
When energy is converted from one form to another, such as when you take energy stored as calories in food and convert it into ATP (energy for your cells to produce muscular work), heat is released as a byproduct.
Exercise activity thermogenesis refers to the calories you burn during deliberate, distinct workouts in the day.
For example, if you are a runner and go for a 5-mile run, the calories you burn running 5 miles constitute your EAT calories that day.
Similarly, if you lift weights, do yoga, take a spin class at your gym, go for a hike, etc., the calories that you burn during these exercise sessions form the EAT portion of your TDEE.
Returning to the four components that constitute your total daily energy expenditure, TDEE, the physical activity that you do in your day outside of your structured workouts is what is considered the non-exercise activity thermogenesis or NEAT calories.
You can use an online calculator to help you determine your total daily energy expenditure.
What Counts as NEAT Exercise And NEAT Activities?
Unless you are extremely sedentary and basically sit or lie down for the entire day except during your workout, you will do some amount of physical activity in your daily life outside of your workouts.
Although some NEAT activities may fall more along the lines of NEAT exercise (like walking to do your errands) whereas other contributors to daily NEAT calories are truly just activities of daily living (ADLs) like chores or occupational physical activity, anything you do to be more active during the day will increase your NEAT caloric expenditure and thus TDEE.
This can potentially make a big difference in your weight loss results.
Examples include walking your dog, going to the post office or running errands, standing up teaching a class or while working retail, putting away groceries, playing with your kids at the playground, vacuuming, and doing laundry.
All of these physical activities burn calories and contribute to your daily NEAT calories, yet they are usually not logged or considered specific exercise sessions.
Essentially, NEAT activity is the physical activity you do above sitting or lying down but outside of your structured exercise.
Tips to Increase NEAT Calories
The benefit of increasing NEAT exercise is that the more active you are in the day, the more calories you will burn. This will help you generate a larger caloric deficit to lose weight.
Here are some tips to help increase your daily NEAT levels:
#1: Get a Standing Desk
A standing desk or treadmill desk will help you burn more calories and can decrease the health risks associated with sitting all day.
#2: Walk or Bike for Your Errands
If you live in an area where you can walk or bike to work, or you can do errands by foot rather than public transportation or driving, adding steps per day by commuting by walking instead of riding is one of the most effective ways to significantly increase NEAT calories burned.
#3: Set Alarms
If you have a sedentary job or tend to sit or lie down a lot at home and don’t have the option for getting a standing desk, treadmill desk, or more active adjustment to your work or home situation, one of the best tips to increase daily caloric expenditure by boosting NEAT calories is to add physical activity “snacks.”
This might involve setting an alarm to go off once an hour to remind you to get up and walk around the office for five minutes, do a set of 25 jumping jacks, bang out some push-ups or squats in your living room, or run up and down the stairs a few times.
Adding these brief NEAT exercise bouts breaks up extended periods of sitting, helps stretch out your muscles, increases circulation, boosts your heart rate, and gets your metabolism humming.
Plus, depending on what types of activities you decide to do for your NEAT exercise breaks, you can make some impressive improvements in your strength and fitness over time without even realizing how much activity you’re getting in.
For example, if you decide to do 10 push-ups once an hour while you are at work for a quick little NEAT exercise burst, you can get in 80-100 push-ups done per day.
Before you know it, you may find that your chest, arms, shoulders, upper back, and core muscles are looking more chiseled and defined and that you are feeling much stronger in the gym when trying to bench press or do other upper body workouts.
Similar benefits can be experienced with squats, burpees, jumping jacks, jump squats, etc. but with different muscle groups.
Having a clean home can really make a world of difference in terms of your overall mood, as well as your physical and mental health.
Any sort of cleaning activity is a great way to increase NEAT activity levels.
Examples include vacuuming, mopping, doing the dishes, folding laundry, ironing, cleaning the bathroom, scrubbing the tub, washing the walls, dusting, vacuuming the stairs, tidying up, etc.
If you have children or a dog, one of the best tips to boost daily NEAT calories is to get active by playing.
Take your kids to the playground or for a bike ride, chase your little ones around the house, carry your children rather than using a stroller, take your dog for extra walks or play fetch, etc.
If you don’t have children or animals, you can still incorporate play into your day.
Grab a few friends and play a game of ultimate frisbee or whiffle ball, jump rope, try VR fitness games, go to the park, etc.
Non-structured activity thermogenesis is all about trying to capitalize on different ways to be active that do not feel as formal and serious as regular exercise. Have fun and enjoy moving your body in different ways.
A great tip to burn more calories in the day by increasing daily NEAT is to pace.
The more steps you can accumulate, the lower your disease risk, the more calories you will burn, and the healthier you will be.
When you take a phone call, either go for a walk or pace around your office. When you have to wait in line, peace around or march in place.
When you cook your own food, you not only control the nutrition and calories in what you are eating, which can help support weight loss, but you will also burn more calories just by cooking.
Cooking may burn about 200 calories per hour or so, and the clean-up burns just as many, if not more.
#8: Do Yard Work
Shoveling, raking, mowing, gardening, and watering plants all help burn calories while beautifying your property.
#9: Carry Things
Rather than pushing a grocery cart, carry your groceries in a basket in your arms.
#10: Wear a Weighted Vest
An often-overlooked tip to lose weight faster is to wear a weighted vest.
Walking around with a weighted vest will increase your daily NEAT calories because your body is supporting more weight.
For more information about how many calories you should be eating, check out our guide here.