By Ann Lokuta, MPH, RD, LDN
Spring seems to be the season for cleaning: cleaning up our diets, cleaning out our closets, and dusting off our exercise gear. As this new season nears and we set aside time for healthier eating, organization, and exercise, let’s also stand up against sitting and join the NEAT movement.
NEAT stands for non-exercise activity thermogenesis – a fancy term used to describe all of the activity in a day aside from planned exercise. This includes activities like walking from your car to the office, standing while talking to a coworker, grocery shopping at the store, and unloading the dishes from the dishwasher. Over the past 50 years, mechanization of daily chores, online shopping and banking, drive through food, and sedentary jobs have made it easier to sit and harder to move. Instead of replacing these tasks with movement, as a society we’ve started to sit more and more. In this time, our NEAT in a day has decreased significantly, by as much as 2500 calories! Some studies have even shown that when we begin to exercise more and make healthier food choices, we tend to reward ourselves with increased sedentary time, which may cancel out the benefits of all our hard work.
The good news is that small behavior shifts matter. NEAT adds up quickly in a day and can have a significant impact on health goals. Research has shown that increasing NEAT by at least 2000 steps a day or 2.5 hours a week could reduce risk for cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, and all-cause mortality, improve insulin sensitivity, and prevent frustrating weight loss plateaus. Try out these 7 steps to stand up more, sit less, and get NEAT:
- Set an alarm every hour on your phone to stand up for at least 5 minutes.
- Park further from the office in the morning.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible.
- Take 5 minutes to at lunch to stand and stretch at your desk.
- Take the stairs to a different floor when you walk to use the restroom.
- Stand and stretch while watching TV.
- Make a NEAT to-do list and check a task off every night (sweep, vacuum stairs, take kids to the park, etc.)