Updated: Jul 14
By Robert Gray
There is strong evidence to suggest that Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) is a major factor in a person's ability to manage their body mass and energy balance. NEAT is the energy expended during a wide range of daily living tasks or activities. Things like doing the dishes, taking the dog for a walk, doing yard work, or even that annoying knee bouncing habit you have, all increase your metabolic rate and energy expenditure. A person's total energy expenditure (TEE) in a day is the sum of NEAT, exercise-related activity thermogenesis (EAT), the thermogenic effect of food (TEF), and basal metabolic rate (BMR).
TEE = NEAT + EAT + TEF + BMR
Calories are the energy currency inside our bodies. The more calories we eat the more energy (calories) we need to expend to maintain our body weight. The opposite is also true. Research has found that NEAT contributes to a higher percentage of TEE in highly active subjects when compared to sedentary subjects. Additionally, NEAT represents the most variable component of TEE. Simply put, an individual who wants to increase their daily energy expenditure in the hopes of losing body weight needs to increase their daily NEAT.
NEAT is inherently low intensity activity. We know our body prefers to use stored body fat to fuel low intensity and /or long duration exercise. Knowing that the biggest energy expenditure difference between active and sedentary individuals is NEAT and that NEAT prefers to use fat as a fuel source, I believe increasing your daily walking time to be the single easiest strategy you can use to help kick start your weight loss goal!
If you currently don't have a daily walking routine start with 10 minutes daily and look to increase it a few minutes every week or two. It may be beneficial to do multiple shorter walks a day as compared to one big walk. That said, you should stick with the option and strategy that allows you to be consistent.
Levine, James A. “Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT).” Best Practice & Research Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, vol. 16, no. 4, 2002, pp. 679–702., https://doi.org/10.1053/beem.2002.0227.
von Loeffelholz C, Birkenfeld A. The Role of Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis in Human Obesity. [Updated 2018 Apr 9]. In: Feingold KR, Anawalt B, Boyce A, et al., editors. Endotext [Internet]. South Dartmouth (MA): MDText.com, Inc.; 2000-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/books/NBK279077/