Looking to Lose Weight? That's Pretty NEAT

Many Americans often have the goal to lose weight but may struggle when they are not seeing the results they want. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or NEAT, is an important consideration when the goal is to increase physical activity and lose weight. NEAT is defined as the energy we spend doing everything that is NOT sleeping, eating, or sport-like exercise. This might include walking to and from your desk at work, vacuuming the house, or even grocery shopping. NEAT is important for the maintenance of body weight and is specifically critical for gaining or losing weight. While purposeful dieting and exercise are important, NEAT can be used to help burn additional calories.

The percentage of energy expended above rest for various activities.

The percentage of energy expended above rest for various activities.

So how exactly can NEAT be used to lose weight? For starters, it is important to note that 1 pound of body fat is equivalent to 3500 calories. In other words, in order to lose a pound of fat, we would need to see a deficiency of 3500 calories to our overall expenditure. Increasing our NEAT by 200 calories per day (equal to walking 2 miles) and decreasing our calorie intake by 300 calories per day (equal to 12oz. soda or small bag of chips) will provide us with a daily deficit of 500 calories per day. If this is done over the course of a week, or 7 days, we will end with a deficit of 3500 calories, or 1 pound of fat lost for the week!

Increasing your NEAT can be a creative process for losing weight. Below are a few examples of NEAT:

  • Parking farther away from the grocery store or work. This provides an opportunity to get a few extra steps.

  • When the opportunity is there, take the stairs! Taking the stairs burns 7 times more energy than taking the elevator.

  • Standing versus sitting. Try standing during tv commercials. Over the course of a 60 minute TV show, that is about 15 minutes that you could be burning more calories by standing.

  • Have a pedometer? Aim to get 10,000 steps in a day.

  • Sitting on a stability ball. The constant action and bouncing burns more energy than sitting and also works on building muscles in your core.

The Healthy Lifestyle Center can help by providing consultations specific to exercise, nutrition, and goal setting. Additionally, we can provide support for increasing your NEAT, losing weight, and adhering to living a healthier life.

By Matt Lewandowski

Sources: 6 Things to Know About Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. Pete McCall – American Council on Exercise – November 21, 2017.; Levine, J. (2002). Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT). Best Practice & Research: Clinical Endocrinology, 16(4), 679-702.; 6 Reasons to Take the Stairs. Yasmine Ali – VerywellHealth– September 10, 2016.; Levine, J., Vander Weg, M., Hill, J., & Klesges, R. (2006). Non-exercise activity thermogenesis: The crouching tiger hidden dragon of societal weight gain. Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, 26, 729-736.

The SMART Way to Set Goals

Getting started on your exercise journey can sometimes be a very daunting task. There are often feelings of confusion on where to start. A good plan of action is to set goals for yourself to help guide you and keep you on track. However, a goal such as “getting healthy” is too broad. A more detailed goal is more likely to stick because you will know exactly what it is that you are striving for. An effective way to goal set is to use the SMART method. SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Here’s an example of a good SMART goal for exercise:

Specific- I will start exercising.

Measurable- I will work out at least 3 times a week for 30 minutes each time.

Achievable- Is this realistic? You have to decide if you will be able to meet this goal or if it is too far of a reach. If it is, make it more attainable. You can always change your goal once you have achieved it. 

Relevant- Is this goal relevant and important to your life right now. You have to make this goal for you and no on else. You have to have the desire to achieve the goal.

Time-bound- I will work out three days a week for 30 minutes each day for 4 weeks. 

Now that you have a better understanding of how to set goals, you are one step closer to starting your exercise journey. The Healthy Lifestyle Center can help you by providing more information about exercise, nutrition, and proper goal setting to help you achieve your goals. 


By Kerygan LaVine

Source: American Council on Exercise. “SMART Goal Setting Guide.” SMART Goal Setting | A Guide to Fitness Goals | ACE Blog, American Council on Exercise, www.acefitness.org/education-and-resources/lifestyle/blog/6763/smart-goal-setting-guide.