It’s 2022, so chances are you know by now that focused physical activity, aka exercise is good for you! Moving your bodies in a way you enjoy is not only wonderful for a healthy heart, lungs and muscles but has a huge impact on mental health too. In addition to “exercise,” you have probably heard about “daily steps,” or maybe even asked how active you are outside of your “workout” time. These movements are actually NEAT!

NEAT stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, and perhaps in basic terms, all the movement we do that isn’t “focused physical activity,” aka “exercise.”

NEAT activities include walking your dog, cleaning, dancing in the shower, walking at the grocery store, running around at work or after kids, etc.

When you are thinking about your overall activity level and the number of calories you burn a day, you might be surprised to find out that NEAT activities can make up a large part of these. YES, most people need to add in focused physical activity to meet their health and wellness goals and requirements, but no one should ignore their NEAT activities either. On the contrary, some people think that they do more NEAT activities than they really do or overestimate the amount of movement and calories burned during these everyday tasks. NEAT activities may be something that can help you with your overall health and wellness.

NEAT activities may just be what you need to kick yourself into a higher gear. If you are struggling with your energy levels, your body isn’t feeling as strong or agile, or you notice that your weight isn’t where you feel your best, don’t panic. Adding in a little NEAT time may be all that you need!

Ask yourself, realistically how much NEAT time you are spending per day, week or month. Some of us are busier on some days and less on others. For example, if you tend to only spend NEAT time on the weekends, it might not be enough to keep you where you want to be for the whole week. If you are mostly sedentary except for a couple of days a month, then more NEAT time could be just what you need.

Yet, anytime we are trying to figure out where we need to go, we must find out where we are today! Pedometers, Fitbits and phone trackers are a great tool to find out just how NEAT you already are. Check out your phone to see if it has any free tracking features as well. Then you can decide how much more NEAT time you want and or need.

To add in more NEAT time is quite easy! Here are some ideas:

Stand more. If you can stand while working, talking on the phone, do it.

Move more. If you can dance while you cook, march in place on the phone, or look for little ways to move more while doing menial tasks, do it.

Clean every day. This is a double bang for your NEAT buck! Cleaning often means moving. IF you set up a couple of tasks a day, you’ll get those extra steps in and have a cleaner space too.

Walk more. Take the stairs, park a little further away, walk to see someone instead of calling. It makes such a huge difference! Think about it! 500 extra steps a day is over a mile and a half a week.

Play more. Play with the kids, dance with your partner, make things a little more fun and active to get more movement.

Go shopping! If you don’t love walking, but you enjoy shopping or bargain hunting, head to the store for some NEAT time.

Fidget, sometimes tapping your foot or moving your hands can be distracting, but other times that little bit of movement can also help you feel more alert, and it counts as movement too!

Stretch. Stretching is so good for us! Reach to the sky a few times a day, reach for your toes, check in with your neck. Bodies are made to move, so think of it as a little happy break when you have been stationary for a while.

The more we move, the more calories we burn. If you are looking to lose/maintain weight, movement is going to be a big piece of that puzzle. The movement also helps us to stabilize our blood sugar, keep our hearts healthy and prevent a multitude of diseases. Our brains also crave activity, and mini bursts of movement can help fulfill that too. We aren’t saying you need to immediately join a Spin® class or come to Zumba® but look for little NEAT activities!

If you are already active and committed to consistent physical activity, think about your NEAT time. One boxing class a week is a great workout, but we need more movement than just that. Add in some NEAT time! Take some of the tips above to make sure you are moving throughout the day, not just at your regular workout times. Before you know it, it will feel more natural and just a part of your daily life to be moving, grooving and embracing more NEAT time!


Mary Hoadley

Director of The Wellness Center