Big Difference between Exercising Too Little and Sitting Too Much

couch potato3Recent studies have shed light on the influence of daily movement in preventing weight gain. This type of movement—different from socking in bouts of cardio at the gym—is known as non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or NEAT.

NEAT describes all your daily activities that require movement, such as getting the mail, mowing the lawn, walking from parking lots, pacing on the phone, even fidgeting. Research shows that people who stay active during the day can chalk up an extra 300 daily calories—that’s ~2 lbs a month!! Especially when combined with resistance training, NEAT counters the lethargy and down-regulation of metabolism that occurs with weight loss.*

NEAT accounts for energy you expend when not sleeping, eating, or doing structured exercise like jogging–even fidgeting can turn up the calorie burn.

time-to-move-trans-2Simply moving more throughout your day, or even standing, may even work better than diligently exercising and returning home or to work and SITTING.

A study in the American Journal of Health Promotion (May/June 2015) found that those who did light activity such as yard work, slow dancing, walking for an hour a day, etc., were comparable to more intense exercisers in terms of weight, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels.

You Can’t Beat NEAT

In 30 minutes, a 150-lb. person can burn the following calories through daily activities: **

Raking leaves = 147 calories
Gardening or weeding = 153 calories
Moving (packing and unpacking) = 191 calories
Vacuuming = 119 calories
Cleaning the house = 102 calories
Playing with the kids (moderate activity level) = 136 calories
Mowing the lawn = 205 calories

NEAT = Moving More!

Even Oprah highlights “Move More” (The Oprah Magazine, Jan. 2016, pp. 92-93) as the single best thing you can do to live longer. Health benefits relate to weight, stress, muscles, joints, brain, and heart.

Here are some NEAT examples that you can start doing today:†

  • Take up gardening as a hobby
  • Stand up and move whenever you take a drink of water at work
  • Get a pedometer and strive for 10,000 steps a day
  • When watching tv, get up and move whenever a commercial comes on
  • Walk up and down the shopping aisles at the store before you start to shop
  • Walk to a co-worker’s desk instead of emailing or calling
  • Take the stairs
  • Clean your house yourself instead of enlisting help (yeah, right)
  • Increase the number of dog walks–everyone will benefit!
  • Pace while you’re on the phone
  • Park far away from your destination—you’ll save your car from getting dings as well


Up, Up with People

have a seatNEAT not only helps with weight loss, but also with better overall metabolic health. A large prospective 7-year study‡ with 154,614 women and men (ages 59-82) showed that sitting for 12 or more hours a day vs. 5 hours or fewer was associated with 20-40 percent higher mortality risk—and specifically, a 40-55 percent greater risk of death from cardiovascular causes.

On the other hand just 1 hour a day of NEAT activity, such as household chores, gardening, daily moving, etc., predicted much lower risk of death from all causes. 1-2 hours a day of NEAT garnered a 30 percent reduced death rate in men and a 50-60 percent reduction in women.

Moving more + sitting less = healthier populations. A landmark Australian study that examined more than 11,000 adults to identify changes in waist circumference over 12 years found an average increase of 2.6 inches for those who reduced their moderate-vigorous activity and increased TV time.

Sooo, how much are you moving?  Wear a pedometer or other fitness technology to find out. Then challenge yourself to keep increasing your steps.

*Hunter GR et al. 2015. Exercise training and energy expenditure following weight loss. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 47(9): 1950-57.
**Coy K. Burning Calories with Everyday Activities. Everyday HEATH, April 2009.
†Partially excerpted from Kravitz L. (Jan. 2016). New clues to prevent weight regain. IDEA Fitness Journal 13(1): p. 16.
‡Matthews CE et al. 2015. Mortality benefits for replacing sitting time with different physical activities. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 47(9): 1833-40. 


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