Research shows NEAT, non-exercise activity thermogenesis, is an often overlooked weight loss component.  

In the wake of expensive, boutique fitness centers, it can be easy to believe you need a pricey membership or intense sweat session to lose those pesky pounds. Fortunately, that is far from the truth. More studies are showcasing the importance of NEAT—an acronym for “non-exercise activity thermogenesis”—for boosting weight loss and improving your overall health.

What is non-exercise activity thermogenesis, anyways?

James Levine MD, Professor Of Medicine at Mayo Clinc, defines NEAT as “energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise.” Biking to work, taking the stairs at the office, gardening, taking the dog for a walk around the block, and even fidgeting are all examples of NEAT.

For those with desk jobs, it can be all too easy to remain sedentary for eight hours straight just to go home and sit again for several hours while watching television or reading. One study found incorporating NEAT principles into your daily life, such as standing more or taking short walks, can increase daily caloric expenditure by an additional 2000 calories!

How to incorporate NEAT into your daily routine

The simplest way to increase your NEAT and calorie expenditure is finding little ways to take more steps. Many of us aren’t able to walk to work, but we can take the stairs each morning, walk a few laps around the office throughout the day, or park farther away from your building each morning.

“Physical activity is also the steps you take to class, cleaning your house, taking the stairs, and life in general,” said Jessica Procter, a personal trainer in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. “Being physically active is a way of life, not something you engage in for an hour a day.”

Boost your walking game with these pro tips:

How much NEAT to strive for each day

10,000 steps per day is the standard activity goal we should be meeting per day, and if you can get even more, go for it! Finding ways to reach that goal of 10,000 or more steps will help you know how much NEAT your body needs each day.

Procter advises her clients to get 300 minutes of physical activity each week, or about 40 minutes per day. She said walking with a friend (your dog totally counts!) is an easy and fun way to reach that goal.

Other health benefits of NEAT

NEAT has shown to improve overall health and help relieve muscle soreness. Simply getting outside and spending time in nature has shown to relieve stress and improve mental health. Going for a walk has showed to improve heart health, curb cravings, and keep your brain sharp. One study showed that even if you split up your daily 40 minute walk into smaller, digestible increments (for example, walking for 10 minutes four times a day), you’ll still reap the benefits.