Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis explained: The importance of movement

person in trainers walking

Article by: Sila Kurtoglu

Often my clients presume the majority of their calories burned are during our training sessions or in the gym, and if they’ve missed that session, that’s it, the day’s ruined and there’s no longer any point in trying to eat well either. Wrong! Not even 10% of the calories you burn day-to-day are burned during training, i.e. Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (EAT). Increasing your Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) will have a profound impact on not just losing weight but sustaining it too. To explain, let’s remind ourselves of Total Daily Energy Expenditure (which is the number of calories your body burns in a day), that we learnt about in the How to Lose Weight article.
NEAT Graph

70% of your calories burned today are burned without you even knowing (your Basal Metabolic Rate), but this article focuses on the life-changing theory about the NEAT component. Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis is the scientific term for the way everyday activities stimulate your metabolism, such as walking, shopping, and taking the stairs. It accounts for calories burned outside of “formal” exercise. Fitness guru Diren Kartal created the brilliant phrase: NEAT UP 247

So what does NEATUP2471 mean? It mean’s keep moving, 24/7! Movements such as folding laundry in front of the TV, standing on public transport and walking up the escalator instead of standing on them. Highly active people can expend up to three times more energy in a day than sedentary people2. Many theorists blame the obesity epidemic on sugars and carbs, however it’s important to also recognise that our NEAT has dramatically decreased due to an increase in motorised transport, labour-saving devices, desk-bound jobs and so on.

Yes, go to the gym and carry on training. Your Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (EAT) is important too depending on your goal, however, do not lose the importance of maintaining an active lifestyle, which burns far greater calories than your work out.

So whether you’re an avid exerciser or confessed couch potato, simply moving more and sitting less will boost your health dramatically. The good news is short durations of activity – even just a minute or two – count toward the minimum 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity that we’re advised to fit in weekly. Remember; “It takes energy (calories) to move even the smallest muscle.” 3

1. James Smith, Not A Diet Book, Fitness Tracking and NEATUP247
2. NEATUP247 created by Diren Kartal
3. Polly de Mille, director of the Tisch Sports Performance Center at the Hospital for Special Surgery.

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