Whether you are someone who enjoys exercise or not, this article is still for you!

There is a difference between exercise and physical activity. I first learned about non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) from the program of which I am a health coach, and the book by Dr. Wayne Scott Andersen titled, “Dr. A’s Habits of Health. The path to permanent weight control, optimal health and wellbeing.” NEAT is the energy we use for everything in our day that is not sleeping, eating, or purposeful/intentional exercise.


Essentially, NEAT is all movement in your daily life that is not structured or intentional exercise. Since this blog is for everybody, no matter your weight, shape or size, it will talk about incorporating physical activity into your daily life so anyone can do it. The point is to get your body used to regular movement, burn calories while moving, lose some pounds, keep your muscles flexible, and create this healthy habit into your life.

If you are already exercising, keep it up because creating a good sweat, building muscle, and working your cardiovascular system is very important, too. Once your body becomes used to NEAT and starts to realize the benefits, when you are ready you can then add exercise to your routine to build muscle and stamina.

What is exercise: 1) activity requiring physical effort, carried out to sustain or improve health and fitness; 2) a process or activity carried out for a specific purpose, especially one concerned with a specified area or skill.

What is physical activity: 1) any bodily movement that is carried out by skeletal muscles and requires energy.

In addition to the above, and in further comparing the two, here is the basic difference: If you exercise for 1 hour per day that is approximately 4% of your day compared to NEAT that can be up to 63% of your day! With physical activity, you are more active consistently and regularly throughout the day opposed to an explosion of energy for 20-60 minutes a day or a few times a week. One is consistent and regular and constantly burning calories while one is sporadic and inconsistent.

When someone is starting to get healthy, exercise can be intimidating or even very difficult to do. Also, until people begin to reduce their size, they may be intimidated to go to the gym or to even go into their neighborhoods to start an exercise routine of walking. With NEAT you can do it anywhere, and it doesn’t cost you anything!

The trick is to think of constant movement for your body. Think of that “Nervous Nelly” kid you sat next to in 3rd grade who fidgeted a lot and crossed her leg and swung the top leg constantly. That was NEAT in motion!

Some easy ways to “sneak in” movement:

  1. Do calf raises while brushing your teeth
  2. Do squats while waiting for your Keurig to dispense your coffee
  3. Sit on a balance ball while watching the nightly news
  4. Play music while you are working and chair dance (even just tapping your feet) while reading your emails
  5. Walk around while on conference calls. Wear earbuds and have your phone in your pocket so you can carry a pen and notebook in case you need to take notes
  6. March in place while you are making dinner
  7. Do knee lifts while watering your garden
  8. Use the far-away parking spots
  9. Always use the stairs when you have a choice
  10. While working, stand whenever you can, especially if you have a desk job
  11. While watching the news or taking a phone call, do bicep curls with a weight or a canned food item from your pantry
  12. Clean the house
  13. Cook your meals
  14. Pick weeds in your garden
  15. Sing and dance in the shower
  16. Walk your dog
  17. Fidget
  18. A morning and/or nightly stretch of your muscles

According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, “a 145-pound person can expect to burn approximately 102 calories an hour while sitting at work. If that person stood while working, they would burn 174 calories. An extra 72 calories might not seem like a lot, but it can add up to move than 18,000 calories burned per year, leading to an approximate 5-pound weight loss. Without utilizing NEAT, you would have to do 60 30-minute runs at 5 miles per hour to burn the same rate of calories.”

You will find that once you incorporate NEAT into your daily routine it becomes a way of life for you. Then, once you start to get healthier and lose weight, you will find that you may be ready to incorporate exercise into your routine. Any kind of movement that you do incorporate into your life is important for your overall health, including your bones, joints, muscles, and much more.

Keep on moving!

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