NEAT: It Matters!

You’ve probably heard of “sitting disease,” a common result of our sedentary lifestyle that can contribute to metabolic syndrome, weight gain, and at the very least, poor posture. But you can improve your health and lose weight or maintain your weight simply by moving around more in daily life. This type of unplanned physical activity, such as standing, walking, talking, and sitting is called non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or NEAT.

NEAT: It Matters

If you have doubts about how important NEAT is to losing weight, preventing weight gain, and overall health and fitness, consider this:

A study recruited 20 healthy volunteers who were self-proclaimed “couch potatoes.” Ten participants were lean by BMI standards and 10 were mildly obese. The researchers measured their BMI and then collected data about how much they moved and how often they were seated.

The study found that the lean participants, although couch potatoes, burned an average of 352 more calories per day than the obese participants. That’s the equivalent of 36.5 pounds in one year!

It turns out that the obese subjects were seated for 164 minutes longer each day than the lean participants. The lean participants were upright for 153 minutes longer per day than the obese subjects [1].

This is a significant amount of energy burned! I’ve also seen firsthand that NEAT can have a big impact on gaining muscle definition. So how can you do it?

How to Get More Non-Exercise Activity

Here are some general ideas. See even more specific ideas below!

  • Walk to work
  • Walk during your lunch hour
  • Walk instead of drive whenever you can
  • Take a family walk after dinner
  • Skate to work instead of drive
  • Mow the lawn with a push mower
  • Walk to your place of worship instead of driving
  • Walk your dog
  • Replace the Sunday drive with a Sunday walk
  • Get off a stop early and walk
  • Work and walk around the house
  • Take your dog to the park
  • Wash the car by hand
  • Run or walk fast when doing errands
  • Pace the sidelines at your kids’ athletic games
  • Take wheels off your luggage
  • Walk to a co-worker’s desk instead of emailing or calling them
  • Make time in your day for physical activity
  • Bike to the barbershop or beauty salon instead of driving
  • If you find it difficult to be active after work, try it before work
  • Take a walk break instead of a coffee break
  • Perform gardening and/or home repair activities
  • Avoid laborsaving devices
  • Take small trips on foot to get your body moving
  • Play with your kids 30 minutes a day
  • Dance to music
  • Walk briskly in the mall
  • Take the long way to the water cooler
  • Take the stairs instead of the escalator
  • Go for a quick hike

Ideas for Work

Ideas for Home

Ideas for School


A special thanks to Len Kravitz, Ph.D., for his valuable work in this area.

[1] Levine, J.A., Lannigham-Foster, L.M., McCrady, S.K., Krizan, C. Kane, P.H., Jensen, M.D., and Clark, M.M. (2005). Interindividual Variation in Posture Allocation: Possible Role in Human Obesity. Science, 28 January, Vol. 307, pp 584-586.

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