Feel like you’re putting on lockdown pounds? Struggling with energy? Maybe it’s time to think about NEAT!
Have your heard of the acronym NEAT? NEAT stands for Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. A simple way of describing this would be ‘pottering around’. Well maybe there’s a little more to it but it’s all about how we burn energy when not sleeping, eating or taking part in some kind of sport or structured exercise. Examples of activities that can be considered NEAT include; • Walking to and from work • Moving around your place of work • The work you do, be it typing on a keyboard, hauling yourself under a car engine or landscaping a garden • Housework and cleaning • Fidgeting and trivial activities around the house. The cumulative effect of these activities is the key. They might seem meaningless but the impact of the multitude of exothermic actions all add to your own daily NEAT.
During the current lockdown, I’ve seen lots of memes and heard many jokes about putting weight on. To be fair some are very funny! But one of the main reasons we’re thinking about extra inches around the waist is partly due to a decreasing level of NEAT. Let’s be clear. We’re not talking about structured exercise, so even if you’re finding the time to get out for more runs or the Wicks Workout these are not included in your level of NEAT. Although I of course applaud you for increasing your exercise and hope you’re loving it! No, NEAT is about the rest of the time during lockdown where we find ourselves sitting more and moving less. Human beings are designed to move and be mobile. Many of our joints are naturally lubricated to allow us to be athletic and agile, not stuck to the chair. The human brain is designed for simple and complex movement. We can stand on one leg, reach out and easily pick up some fruit from the table, perhaps scratching our head at the same time! But the less we move results in lower levels of NEAT and this in turn means less calories burned. Calories expended is a key component of maintaining body weight. So, how can you increase your levels of NEAT, particularly during this current lockdown? We’ve already agreed that it’s not about structured exercise or more running. Increasing your levels of NEAT means getting your body moving throughout the day;
- Sit to Stand Position Changes. Try it without using the hands and fire up those legs. You can do this constantly when working or watching the TV. Do this every 15 minutes.
- Walk While You Work. Walk while you talk. You can easily move around when on the phone or even a video call. Try walking up and down the stairs when on a call, just concentrate though!
- Posture Breaks. Forward head posture is responsible for so many symptoms we see in the clinic – headaches, neck stiffness, shoulder problems…the list goes on. So stand or sit tall, chin tuck and expand your ribcage up and out. Roll the shoulders up and back 5 times, gently rotate your lower spine right then left and really stretch the arms out at your sides and back – remember David Beckham’s goal celebration?
- Active Sitting. Try using a stability cushion when sitting. These encourage small movements of the lumbar spine and core muscles. The movements also stimulate the brain and fires up the cerebellum, part of the brain that’s almost switched off when you sit still for long periods. Active sitting is like having a sneaky workout when you’re typing away!
- Balance Training. Take your menial tasks and trivial chores to the next level by changing how you use your limbs. Try standing on one leg, standing on tip toes, using the less dominant arm for lifting and cleaning and try walking sideways and backwards a little! It does make boring things more fun but importantly has your boosting levels of NEAT.
These 5 suggestions are all great for your posture but they’re great boosters for your levels of NEAT. Improving your Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis can help keep you on top of your health goals even with the added hurdles of the lockdown period. Stay Well and we look forward to seeing you in the clinic soon.