Activity thermogenesis can be broken up into two categories.
Exercise activity thermogenesis
Is energy expended from exercise that we intentionally engage in (anything you do at the gym, running, power walking etc.). We focus on activity thermogenesis - calories burned while exercising - when attempting to lose weight. This can be a massive mistake.
Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT)
Is the energy expended for everything we do when we’re not sleeping or exercising (hence the “non-exercise”). Cleaning the house, cooking, ironing, walking up the stairs to get to the office or dash through the underground, even the hour of fidgeting after a strong cup of black coffee in the morning (this is me for sure) are all great examples. They all burn calories and more than you would expect.
Our jobs will impact our levels of NEAT significantly. Occupational NEAT is the activity thermogenesis resulting from work. Anyone working in an occupation that requires you to be on your feet moving about or engaging in any physical activity - would have levels of NEAT enough to make the rest of us green with envy. If I give you an example of my job as an Assistant Manager and Personal Trainer my daily hours being on my feet exceeds 20,000 steps on most days equalling plenty of calories burnt through those steps.
For you guys who spend Monday to Friday chained to desks sending email after email, your levels of NEAT are generally greatly reduced. The difference in energy expenditure between active and sedentary jobs can run into hundreds and hundreds of calories.
There are indeed ways to increase NEAT even when working in sedentary jobs. You can do so either by working in some NEAT throughout the work day for example lunchtime walking away from the desk. Unfortunately, most people don’t try to do so and wholly and consistently overlook your daily non-exercise movements, just thinking that the hour spent in the job is going to do the trick. Unfortunately not when it comes to long term weight loss and general health. This is explained below in more detail.
Why You Should Care More About Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis!
You might think that going to the gym makes up for the 8-12 hours you spend sitting at your desk every day. You don’t have to take the stairs or leave your house to pick up dinner rather than ordering in because you’ve already spent an hour in the gym.
What you don’t realise is that the calories burned with the accumulation of all of those small activities would significantly outweigh the calories you burned in the weights room or on a treadmill (if it is not raining outside, then please don't spend your gym time walking on a treadmill).
According to various studies your daily NEAT can vary by up to 2,000 calories a day between two people of the same size. This is insane, and this will be how you are able to burn fat while still eating a reasonable amount of calories on a daily basis.
That means that just by moving around and being on your feet - like we humans were designed to be - you could burn an additional 2,000 calories without even trying. And 2,000 is a hefty number. I know this number sounds crazy, you may not be able to move enough in the day to drive your personal neat up as high, but any additional daily movement you do in the next and following weeks will result in more calories being burnt and better results for yourselves.
Just think by increasing your daily neat you can eat more food daily. This means you can step away from the poverty calories, make becoming consistent much easier.
Heres an example of a daily average persons NEAT
Consider Jim who works in finance, entirely deskbound. The only time he moves throughout the day is shooting to the restroom for a quick bathroom break, returning to the familiar indentation of their office chair as quickly as possible: that could equate to just 300 calories of occupational NEAT per day. Jim returns home after a long and stressful day of work and plops himself in front of the TV for a few minutes of viewing before they doze off: around 30 calories of leisure NEAT.
Now let's say John who works in farming, spending 10+ hours a day on his feet doing physical labour: that could equate to 2,300 calories of occupational NEAT.
Or someone who works as a waiter, zipping between customers all day, carrying heavy plates back and forth: this could total as much as 1,400 calories of occupational NEAT.
They come home, and instead of lying motionless in front of a screen they get in the garden and mow the lawn or take the kids up the park for a kick about, mabey even head out and take a longer route with the dog: this could add up to as much as 600 calories of leisure NEAT. The difference can be significant. Weight loss or Fat loss which you prefer to call it isn't easy, it takes patience and consisntecy. Doing some simple things like getting that booty moving can add up to significant changes long term.
We Don’t Move Much Anymore
Netflix & Chill
The truth is we don’t move much these days. Compare today’s generation to our parents or grandparents. Thanks to Netflix shows and the latest games on our phones or consoles. We spend more and more time in environments that require sitting down and "relaxing". I mean im all for taking time to relax but 4-6 hours a night, I'm sure with the better weather approaching us an evening walk in the fresh air talking about your day, has got to be better than sitting in silence watch another show. Remember balance is the key.
We’re in the age of ease and convenience, and we want everything at our fingertips. The workplace is one of the biggest culprits when it comes to declining activity. They will make everything closer to yourself that you spend more time at your desk. Remember the move time your typing the harder they think your working.
Minor manual tasks that used to be routine in sedentary occupations now require no physical effort due to computerisation and mechanisation. What was once considered sedentary jobs, are now even more so.
We don’t walk over to our colleagues to relay a message; we just shoot them an e-mail. I know some of you guys reading this will be guilty of doing so! We can get through an entire workday expending hardly any energy.
Advances in transportation have also brought out the lazy in all of us. Walking has become almost obsolete. Why walk when an Uber can conveniently pick you up and deliver you right to your destination? I purposely set out parts of my week that I have to walk from one gym to another knowing I am increasing my calories expenditure for that day doing so. Next time you think shall I take the car or walk, choose to walk.
Kids These Days
I look at the younger generation and see little movement in their lives. The latest Xbox game is the only thing on their mind rather than football in the local park or back garden they would instead put FIFA 20 on. For me this is heartbreaking, the social skills and engagement from playing team activities helps younger minds develop long term. Later in life such as starting work, being introduced to new environments and having the skill set to ingretate into those environments more comfortable really shows.
Society as a whole is engineered to require as little movement or effort as possible. When you want a quick bite, you can have your food delivered to your doorstep.
When you need new clothes, just scroll through an online retailer, no need to step foot in a store. Everything is online, and only a few clicks away. TVs, iPads and computers are our sources of entertainment. Recent surveys have found that on average we spend 12 hours sitting a day. Couple that with 7-8 hours of sleeping and you’re at 19-20 hours of hardly any movement.
How Inactivity Impacts Fat Loss
Our sedentary lifestyles are detrimental to our health. Sitting is the new smoking. Obesity was rare a century ago. Today, nearly one-third of the world’s population is obese or overweight. For me, this is why I always wanted to help people lose weight! It's so easy to be overweight these days!
Sure, the foods that we’re eating are causing the numbers on our scales to creep up. But the fact that we’re too lazy to even get in a car and drive to a fast food restaurant is certainly not helping.
You will struggle to out-exercise a sedentary lifestyle. No matter how many times a week you make it to the gym, it will not make up for being seated for the remainder of your waking hours.
Focusing solely on the energy you use while exercising is one of the biggest fat loss mistakes you can make. Exercise will never make up for the energy you could be using living an active lifestyle. If you want to lose fat effectively, you need to move. When you’re dieting, ensuring you’re active throughout the day becomes that much more critical.
The Myth of a 'Slow Metabolism'
Most of you have heard that when you significantly reduce your calories, your metabolism slows down. Warned not to diet too hard or our metabolisms aren’t 'downregulated', in effect, harming our progress.
But the truth is your metabolisms won't downregulate when you cut calories. Our bodies don’t recognise that we’re eating less and immediately catapult into “starvation mode”.
The reason that your progress may eventually slow when you reduce calories is NEAT. You will tend to expend less energy when you're getting less energy from food. It’s a natural behavioural response to dieting.
When eating fewer calories, you tend to move less. Physiological studies have demonstrated that NEAT increases with overfeeding, and decreases with underfeeding. It’s not hard to spot someone who is knee deep in a dieting phase. You’ll find them seated, motionless, not a tap of a finger or swing of a foot.
When dieting we tend to move as little as possible, other than when we’re exercising. As a result, our fat loss slows down. If you want to keep up your progress, keep up your NEAT.
5 Ways to Increase NEAT
1. Take the stairs
This is by far the simplest way to expend more energy throughout the day, and the easiest to accomplish. Ditch the lift. Of course, if you work on the 24th floor, no one expects you to crawl your way to your desk every morning. But if you have just a few flights, go the old fashioned way – by foot. Or take the elevator to the 20th floor and hike the last four. And certainly, don’t be the person that takes the elevator to the second floor. Not only will you be doing yourself a disservice by being unnecessarily lazy, but also everyone else in the lift will hate you. Have you ever been in a packed lift and someone crushes you for the sake of taking a flight of stairs!
2. Get a standing desk
We already know that our occupation is one of the reasons our NEAT is so low. If you spend the majority of your day at your desk, you might as well be standing. While the number of calories expended standing at your desk vs sitting is not massive, you’ll be much more likely to move around if you’re already on your feet rather than slumped in your office chair. You might take more trips to the water cooler and subsequently more trips to the bathroom. You may pop over to your co-worker to tell them something rather than e-mail them. Also, you will be doing yourself a massive favour when it comes to your posture. Sitting for long periods can cause both back and neck pain.
3. Break up your day
Break up your day with short walks or trips. Maybe walk a few blocks to the second nearest coffee shop instead of the one directly next to your building. Or just get up and go for a 10-15 minute stroll every few hours to get your legs working. Once you get into the habit of it, you’ll crave the movement. Sitting for hours on end will feel unnatural and uncomfortable.
4. Do your own errands
Yes, the Internet has made our lives infinitely more convenient and saves us tons of time. But it can also make our lives too convenient.
If you need groceries, physically go to the actual store for some shopping. Stroll through the aisles; carry your groceries in from the car. This is old fashioned, I know, but there’s really no reason to constantly use online shopping delivery sites (unless you live in London and the nearest supermarket is 10 miles away). If you want to order a book, make your way to your nearest bookshop and pick it up rather than ordering it. Simple chores keep you moving and can also bring simple pleasures.
5. Stop hiring people to do your chores
It’s easy to hire people to come in to take care of your tasks and housework for you. Bring someone in to mow the lawn, or tend to your garden. Sitting is enticing, and manual labour is hard work. But taking care of the things around your house that require physical effort is a great way to use energy.
So my aim of writing this post was to get you up and to increase your daily movements! Over the next 7 days, I want you to consciously think about moving more in a day, and then comment next Sunday to let me know how you have got on!