Stay fit and healthy — without breaking a sweat

Taking the stairs, walking to the water cooler, doing yardwork or marching in place at your child's soccer game are all examples of NEAT: nonexercise activity thermogenesis. Find out how you can decrease your risk of health conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes by simply getting out of your chair and moving more often.

By Nolan W. Peterson

Not a fan of the gym? Don't sweat it. You can increase your calorie burn — and decrease your risk of health conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes — by simply getting out of your chair and moving more often. Taking the stairs, walking to the water cooler, doing yardwork or marching in place at your child's soccer game all count, and they are all examples of NEAT: nonexercise activity thermogenesis. Essentially, this type of movement represents the calories burned outside of sleeping, eating and purposeful exercise (and yes, you do burn calories while you sleep!).

Whether you're an avid exerciser or self-proclaimed couch potato, any extra activity you do throughout the day is important. In fact, moving more just might save your life. Why? Research shows that too much sitting can increase the risk of serious health conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

If you're still feeling daunted, know this: Your total daily movement is what counts most when it comes to staying healthy; a regular 60-minute workout several times a week is not enough to offset serious health conditions. In fact, studies have shown that even people who get seven hours of purposeful exercise a week can be at risk of premature death if they are sedentary for most of the day. NEAT can't replace exercise altogether, but it can help you reach your health goals, since your body's ability to burn calories shoots up dramatically when you are up and moving around.

Need more convincing to practice a NEAT lifestyle? Check out these stats:

  • Across the world, almost one-third of adults are not physically active, and in the United States, that number is as high as 50 percent.
  • The average exercise time for adults is 18 minutes, and more than half of all leisure time is spent watching TV or engaging in other sedentary activities. As a result, most people get less than the recommended 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise five days a week, for a total of 150 minutes of purposeful exercise.
  • One study looked at the amount of calories TV watchers burned by simply getting up and stepping in place during commercial breaks. Participants burned on average 67 calories or 55 percent more calories compared with sedentary TV viewers.
  • If you have diabetes, a walk after every meal can help with controlling blood sugar levels. Research has found that walking for 15 minutes at a moderate pace after every meal was more effective at controlling the post-meal rise in blood sugar than a single 45-minute walk during the day was.

Ready to start incorporating more NEAT activities into your day? It begins with the right mindset. Get past an all-or-nothing mentality and seek out simple opportunities to add movement to your day. Walking the dog, taking the trash out, getting up for a cup of water, or doing stretches and squats during TV commercials all count. It's also important to reverse negative thinking. Instead of telling yourself, "I have to move more today," say "I'll try to sit less today." Ask yourself, "How can I make more moving part of my lifestyle?" It's not about a quick fix. Two or more hours of NEAT movement each day can make a huge difference. It will have a snowball effect for an overall healthier, more active lifestyle.

Experiments

Sit less and move more with these experiments.

  1. Think about your daily routine and write down two or three ways you could add movement to your day, such as taking the stairs instead of using the elevator or doing squats while you watch TV.
  2. Discover resources that will motivate you to move more — a pedometer, fitness app or walking buddy are all good places to start.
  3. Counteract every hour that you sit by getting up and moving for five to 10 minutes.
Dec. 16, 2016 See more In-depth

See also

  1. Slide show: 5 smart exercise choices for psoriatic arthritis
  2. 6 tips for an active getaway you'll remember
  3. Accentuate the positive to make lasting health changes
  4. An appointment to exercise? You bet!
  5. Are you ready for a workout?
  6. Balance training: Boost your long-term health with these exercises
  7. Barriers to fitness
  8. Blood Doping
  9. BMI calculator
  10. Body fat analyzers
  11. Boot camp workout
  12. The role of diet and exercise in preventing Alzheimer's disease
  13. Core exercises
  14. Create a home gym without breaking the bank
  15. Did you exercise today? Reward yourself!
  16. Toning shoes
  17. Does fitness trump thinness?
  18. Don't have an exercise budget? Go cheap!
  19. Dress smart for winter workouts
  20. Early bird or night owl? Plan exercise accordingly
  21. Exercise benefits
  22. Exercise and chronic disease
  23. Exercise and illness
  24. Stress relief
  25. Exercise: Every minute counts!
  26. Exercising with arthritis
  27. Exercise smarter, not longer
  28. Exercise: Check with your doctor
  29. Exercising regularly? Track your progress!
  30. Fitness program
  31. Fitness: Take it 1 step at a time
  32. Fitness motivation
  33. Fitness ball exercises videos
  34. Fitness barriers: Bust 'em
  35. Fitness for less
  36. Fitness ideas for the entire family
  37. Fitness program
  38. Fitness takes more than huffing and puffing
  39. Fitness tip: Get physical at home
  40. Fitness tip: Get physical at work
  41. Fitness tip: Include your friends
  42. Fitness training routine
  43. Fitting in fitness
  44. Going up? Take the stairs
  45. Golf injuries
  46. Golfers: Know when to call it quits
  47. Golfers: Tee up common sense
  48. Hanging out with friends? Activity counts!
  49. Hate to exercise? Try these tips
  50. Heart rate
  51. Heat and exercise
  52. Hockey Flywheel
  53. How fit are you?
  54. How much exercise do you really need?
  55. 3 easy ways to get started with yoga
  56. Is exercise a chore? No more!
  57. Keep your workout fun
  58. Know when to move your winter workout indoors
  59. Late-day exercise
  60. Marathon and the Heat
  61. Mayo Clinic Minute: How to hit your target heart rate
  62. Miss a workout? Don't give up!
  63. Natural movement: Going back to basics
  64. Need a gym to get fit?
  65. Need exercise motivation? Put it on paper
  66. Need motivation to exercise? Try a diary
  67. No pain, no gain? No way!
  68. No time for exercise? No way!
  69. Office exercise
  70. Overuse injury prevention
  71. Pregnancy and exercise
  72. Ready to get in on the aquatic fitness movement?
  73. Simple tips for staying active and mobile with osteoarthritis
  74. Core-strength exercises
  75. Guide to stretches
  76. Balance exercises
  77. Fitness ball
  78. Starting a fitness program? Take it slow
  79. Starting an exercise program: Take time to rest
  80. Stay fit at any age
  81. Travel and work
  82. Strength training: How-to video collection
  83. The best ways to bounce back after a tough workout
  84. 5 common sports injuries in young female athletes
  85. To stay fit, embrace the power of play
  86. Too busy to exercise? Get up earlier
  87. Too sick to exercise?
  88. Fitness tips for business travelers
  89. Walking for fitness: Getting started
  90. Want to get fit? Try backyard aerobics!
  91. What it takes to be agile at any age
  92. Winter blahs? 4 pro tips to get you off the couch.
  93. Cold-weather exercise
  94. Winter weather tip: Watch for signs of frostbite
  95. Working out? Remember to drink up
  96. Workout blahs? Don't go it alone!