How to Up Your NEAT + Burn More Calories with Minimal Effort!

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by Tiffany Walking Eagle | 5-minute read

A few years back, I worked at a bakery/cafe, and because I was the nightly closer, I was often running the front-of-house alone during my shift. For those of you who’ve worked in food service, you know there’s little, if any, time for standing around or sitting down (especially when you’re the only one on the floor!). There’s always something to clean, customers who need help, food to be prepped, or money to be counted. It just so happens that at that time in my life, I was the fittest I’ve ever been, and while I was working out regularly and eating a fairly balanced diet, looking back, I think a big part of my level of fitness then had to do with NEAT.

What’s NEAT, you say? Glad you asked! NEAT stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. (My favorite part is the “non-exercise” bit there.) Basically, NEAT includes any activity outside of exercise, including everything from mowing the lawn to making the bed.

Fast-forward to now, and I’ve ditched food service. I now work for myself and spend all my working hours on a computer or iPad, almost zero movement required. While I love working for myself and will likely never go back to food service, I must admit, I’ve turned into a bit of a couch potato during my workdays. I spend hours sitting at a desk or on the couch, and my NEAT has drastically reduced. I went from being on my feet for 8 or 9 hours per day to only getting up from my desk for snacks and bathroom breaks. Can you relate?

Fitness goals aside, a sedentary lifestyle isn’t healthy. I’m not sure I’d go so far as to say “sitting is the new smoking,” but it definitely isn’t good for you. An inactive lifestyle increases your risk of health issues including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, depression, anxiety, and more.

People who work as nurses, waitresses, teachers, etc. often have high levels of NEAT on the daily, but if you struggle to get much movement in during the day, check out these super simple tips to up your daily caloric burn with NEAT.

  1. Netflix and stretch.

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Do you watch TV every day or just about? Instead of lounging lazily on the couch during your nightly Netflix sesh, start stretching while you watch, or maybe even do some push-ups, jumping jacks, or squats! Just getting your heart rate up a little will boost your daily NEAT, and stretching has loads of other benefits aside from just calorie burn.

2. Clean your house daily.

Let me tell ya, I am a whole lot more motivated to clean my house when I think of it as a way to burn extra calories rather than a tedious chore. Doing the dishes, sweeping and mopping the floors, vacuuming, even folding clothes burns calories that certainly add up! Bonus: your house will be cleaner and you’ll be less stressed.

3. Walk during your lunch break.

Whether you work at an office or from home, make it a point to take a walk during your breaks rather than scrolling on social media or sitting while you eat. Try walking after your meal if you have time, or eat while you work and then walk during your break. If you look forward to just taking a break and eating during lunch, take a walk during a 10- or 15-minute break. Whatever you do, just get in some movement! Slap on some headphones, listen to music or your fave podcast, and get moving.

4. Cook meals instead of ordering out.

Sure, home-cooked meals can often be made lower-calorie than restaurant dishes, but that’s not the only reason why I suggest cooking at home. The prep, process, and cleanup cooking requires burns FAR more calories than driving to a restaurant or tapping a couple of buttons in the DoorDash or UberEATS app.

5. Track your steps.

You don’t have to have a Fitbit or pedometer to track your steps daily. Download the MyFitnessPal app on your phone and turn on step tracking. Set your goal for whatever works for you, whether it’s 5,000 or 10,000 steps a day, and aim to hit it every day. Actually seeing the number of steps you do or don’t get in daily can be highly motivating to move more.

6. Have a child.

Mostly kidding on this one, but we all have those friends who have to chase their kids around all day… and you know they’re getting plenty of NEAT! ;) If you already have kids, get out of the house with them with a game or frisbee or swinging at a local park.

7. Walk your dog! Or get a dog.

Instead of just hiring a dog walker or letting your dog run at the dog park, take them for daily walks instead so you both get some extra NEAT. If you don’t have a dog, consider getting one for the benefits of exercise plus furbaby love, of course. You could also offer to dog-sit or walk your friends’ or neighbors’ pups .

8. Avoid elevators.

Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Seriously, it’s a super simple way to up your NEAT if you take elevators often.

9. Use a standing desk.

Standing can help you burn approximately 30 to 50 additional calories per hour. Even if you just stand for a few hours daily while you work, those. calories. add. up. Every little bit counts! Check out this calculator to get some motivation to stand while you work.

10. Pace while you’re on the phone.

Does your job (or maybe just your mom or a needy friend) have you on the phone a lot? Instead of just sitting, pace back and forth while you talk. Those steps add up, especially if mom is on a good one!

11. Set an alarm to get up and move.

Sitting for too long can slow your metabolism, reduce your core strength, and do a nasty number on your posture; our bodies were made to move. Set an alarm on your phone to get up at least every hour or so, even if it’s just to go to the bathroom or grab some water.

Did you give any of these tips a try? What are your favorite ways to fit in more NEAT? Leave me a comment below!