Tap Into Health: The other COVID 19 — weight gain due to NEAT
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have heard a consistent question: “I’m still eating healthy and exercising, so why am I gaining weight?” Many of us have experienced weight gain this past year for various reasons, but one often overlooked reason is NEAT — Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis.
If you have not heard of NEAT before, you are not alone. However, a little NEAT goes a long way, and throughout this pandemic, NEAT has proved to be a valuable measurement to those struggling to lose the “COVID 19 (pounds).”
What is NEAT? The energy expended for everything we do that does not include sleeping, eating or exercise. NEAT includes things as simple as standing, walking to the restroom and fidgeting, but grocery shopping or running errands count, too. These activities really add up throughout the day and supplement your workout routine to help maintain your weight.
Think about what you did before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. You left your house to go to work, you walked out to your vehicle, walked into your workplace, met with co-workers, walked to lunch, you shopped for groceries. All these little movements in the day made up your NEAT value, but once the pandemic hit, you may have had to work from home, order dinner via delivery and skipped meeting friends out for a drink. Your NEAT level decreased dramatically overnight. While it may not seem like much, these non-activity movements add up over a day and result in your pants fitting a little tighter, sluggishness and just not feeling quite yourself.
In 2005, a Mayo Clinic study was done comparing the effects of NEAT on 10 obese individuals and 10 lean individuals. They found that obese individuals spent, on average, two hours more per day seated than the leaner individuals. In addition, the leaner individuals averaged 350 calories burned for nonexercise movements.
Three hundred and fifty calories per day may not seem like much, but if you look at it over a six-month period, that is 63,000 calories not burned, resulting in 18 pounds. Not all of us saw a reduced NEAT of 350 calories per day, but we all certainly saw a reduction in our NEAT due to our lack of activity in the small things, many of which were entirely out of our control.
It is important to get the message out about how powerful a weight loss tool NEAT is because many people do not consider anything short of a hard workout as making substantial contribution to getting in shape and losing those extra pounds. All movement matters and can make a big difference.
If you are serious about burning more calories without working out, now is a great time to change your daily routine to include activity that is more physical. Easy examples include:
• Take the stairs.
• Park at the far end of the parking lot (do not get mad at City Market, be happy to get those extra steps in).
• Use the restroom at the far end of the office rather than the nearest one.
• Take regular breaks at work to stretch and walk around.
• Walk more briskly than your usual pace.
• Instead of a sit-down meeting, encourage walking meetings.
• If you work at a desk, consider a standing desk.
• Take dance breaks while folding laundry.
There are many other ways to get NEAT into your daily life, but you get the idea — all movement is good for your metabolic rate.
“Life is like a bicycle, to keep your balance, you must keep moving.” — Albert Einstein
Holly Harris is fitness director at Old Town Hot Springs.
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