Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) is something you can give yourself some self-praise for before even reading this article. It’s all the informal exercise that we take part in every day and it can have profound effects on your general health and wellbeing. Whether you’re cooking, cleaning, or just fidgeting, a person’s NEAT can vary by almost 2000 kcal a day(1) which means your baseline fitness can be improved upon before pulling on running shoes for a jog.
NEAT is one of the most overlooked tools when we’re seeking to assess our health goals and how we’ll achieve them. To put things into perspective, many put aside 1 hour in the day to practice some formal exercise like team sports, cycling, or an exercise class. Allowing 8 hours for optimum sleep, this leaves 15 hours of the day to increase your informal exercise. The simple act of putting one foot in front of the other at your own rhythm has long been known to improve our health, with Hippocrates famously claiming that walking is a man’s best medicine.
There are three main components of your daily energy balance which make up total energy expenditure for an individual during on a day by day basis. Basal metabolic rate, diet-induced thermogenesis, and physical activity-related energy expenditure.(2) Basal metabolic rate is the energy required to keep your body functioning at rest and makes up about 60% of total energy expenditure in sedentary individuals. Diet induced thermogenesis is related to digestion, storage, and absorption of food and while it is associated with the nutrition composition of foods(3), the magnitude remains largely unchanged between individuals(4). Physical activity-related energy expenditure, therefore, is the most variable aspect of our energy expenditure and the key area to seek a return on investment.
This is made up of exercise-activity thermogenesis (EAT), which is the structured, planned, and repetitive physical activity that typically has the objective of improving health, and non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT), the energy expenditure we don’t usually consider.(5) So how can we increase our NEAT? Imagine your own daily routine and the aspects in which you can make simple changes to boost your moving time. Parking further away from your destination, taking the stairs over the lift, or choosing a standing desk over a seated desk can all raise your NEAT.
Perhaps the biggest advantage of NEAT is that it’s so simple to get into a new mindset and routine to improve it. For this health goal, you don’t need to pack a gym bag, book a slot at an exercise class, or try to beat the rush hour traffic to get home in time. A study of 32,000 teenagers in China showed that the rate of adherence to changes in daily NEAT was much higher than similar attempted improvements in EAT(6), regardless of age or gender. Improvements in NEAT are generally tolerated very well and remain high for longer periods of time so if you’re trying to recruit a work colleague to join you in increasing NEAT, make sure to tell them on your walk up the stairs that the science is also behind you to succeed.
So, what are the actual benefits? The Osaka Walk Study in Japan followed over 6000 men over 10 years and found that for those who walked 20mins or more to their work site in Osaka, there were significant decreases in rates of hypertension (persistently elevated blood pressure) when compared to their colleagues who walked less than 10mins to work.(7) Similarly, many recent studies worldwide have shown those with higher levels of NEAT have lower rates of impaired glucose control, diabetes, and obesity. Perhaps today’s challenge can be to make a conscious effort to reduce your sedentary time through simple, sustainable routines like doing a lap of the office at regular intervals, going for a walk at break times, or using phone calls as opportunities to walk around.
In summary, while there’s no substitute for your weekly training regimen, whether you’re an elite athlete or a weekend warrior, NEAT can help you add those marginal gains to your health, fitness, and wellbeing in a straightforward, achievable manner. Your trip to the gym or local club should remain the cornerstone of how you improve your skills on the field, fitness in the pool, or distance covered with your dog but NEAT can give us countless opportunities to supplement our goals.
At Kinetica, we have a range of products to assist your body as you can strive to increase NEAT. In particular, our deluxe protein bars are the ideal low sugar snack to help you feel fuller for longer. These bars are 33% protein with less than 180 calories coming in mouthwatering flavours of chocolate brownie, cookies & cream, or peanuts & caramel.
With delicious layers of mouth-watering chocolate wrapped around a crunchy centre, they have a softer bite that stands apart from other protein bars. We’re foodies and it shows in the flavour. There’s no fuss, no protein aftertaste, no excuses.
Each and every Kinetica whey protein product is batch tested within the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) framework to ensure we offer our customers a safe and dependable sports nutrition product. Product safety is always our number one priority.
- Levine JA, Vander Weg MW, Hill JO, Klesges RC. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis: the crouching tiger hidden dragon of societal weight gain. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2006;26(4):729-36.
- Psota T, Chen KY. Measuring energy expenditure in clinical populations: rewards and challenges. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2013;67(5):436-42.
- Kinabo JL, Durnin JV. Thermic effect of food in man: effect of meal composition, and energy content. Br J Nutr. 1990;64(1):37-44.
- Donahoo WT, Levine JA, Melanson EL. Variability in energy expenditure and its components. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2004;7(6):599-605.
- Chung N, Park MY, Kim J, Park HY, Hwang H, Lee CH, et al. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT): a component of total daily energy expenditure. J Exerc Nutrition Biochem. 2018;22(2):23-30.
- Mak KK, Ho SY, Lo WS, McManus AM, Lam TH. Prevalence of exercise and non-exercise physical activity in Chinese adolescents. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2011;8:3.
- Hayashi T, Tsumura K, Suematsu C, Okada K, Fujii S, Endo G. Walking to work and the risk for hypertension in men: the Osaka Health Survey. Ann Intern Med. 1999;131(1):21-6.