A “N.E.A.T” Way to Up Your Activity

It goes without saying that regular physical activity is a critical component of having a healthy pregnancy and a faster postpartum recovery.  However, that does not necessarily mean you have to hit the gym every single day (which can be an overwhelming idea when you’re nauseous or dealing with a newborn). The secret?  It’s N.E.A.T (pun intended): a simple and scientifically proven way to burn up to 350 calories (or more) per day without setting foot into a gym or taking up additional time during your day. Sound too good to be true?  It’s not. Read on and you’ll see…

What is N.E.A.T?

N.E.A.T is actually short for Non-Exercise-Activity-Thermogenesis. It is basically all of the movement and activity that you do throughout the day when not officially “exercising” – including standing, walking, even fidgeting.  While it may not seem that significant, it can have an even bigger impact on your activity level than exercise. Think about it: Even if you go to the gym every single day for an hour (and who does that?), that’s still only 7 hours per week. What you do during the other 16-18 waking hours per day (112 – 126 hours per week) can make a far bigger difference! In fact, a recent study indicated that individuals who moved more throughout their day were more likely to reach, or maintain, weight-loss goals than those who engaged in a vigorous exercise session, but were sedentary throughout the rest of their day.

Incorporate more N.E.A.T in your day

Luckily, it’s easy to fit in extra movement throughout the day, without needing to make time for it. Here are some ideas for boosting your N.E.A.T at work, at home, and while out and about:

AT WORK:

  • If you drive to work, park in the back of the parking lot.
  • If you take public transportation, get off a stop or two early and walk the rest of the way.
  • If you work on a higher floor, take the stairs. Or, get off the elevator a few floors early and take the stairs the rest of the way.
  • Use a bathroom on a different floor, and take the stairs.
  • Stand, pace, or take a walk outside while on calls. NOTE: Research shows that moving while thinking improves your problem-solving abilities.
  • Change meetings with your colleagues to “walking meetings.”
  • Place your garbage can away from your desk, so you’ll have to get up every time to throw something away.
  • Every time you sit down, stand back up once more, then sit back down.  When standing up, sit back down once more, then stand up again.  We refer to this as the Chair Getup and it’s a great functional exercise!
  • Opt for a standing desk if you have the opportunity.
  • Instead of emailing or calling a co-worker, swing by that person’s desk or office.

AT HOME:

  • Play with your kids (or pets), and plan more active family activities on weekends.
  • Find more excuses to take your baby out for a walk in the stroller – to run errands, to soothe to sleep, or to just get some fresh air.
  • Clean your house more! Vacuuming may be a pain, but it can be great upper body and core work.
  • Opt for the stairs when possible.  If you live in an apartment, try taking the stairs at least a few flights.  If you have stairs in your house, try using the bathroom on a different floor.
  • When sitting and watching TV, stand up and move throughout every commercial break.
  • When reading, or otherwise sitting, get up every 30 minutes or so and move.
  • Do heel raises or step-touches while brushing your teeth or cooking.
  • Add some evening walks to your family routine.
  • Place items that you use in low cupboards, so you have to squat to reach them.
  • Pick up toys one at a time, squatting every time or performing a proper ground pickup by hinging at the hips and maintaining a neutral spine (no rounding forward please!).  
  • Stand or walk around while talking on the phone.

OUT AND ABOUT:

  • Try “interval walking” when possible: walk fast for 30 seconds, then regular pace for 60 seconds, and keep alternating.
  • Never stop moving!  Pace, do step-touches or heel raises when standing in line or waiting.
  • If you take public transportation, opt to stand instead of sit when that’s an option
  • Schedule a “walk and talk” with friends.
  • Consider getting a pedometer, and aiming for 10,000 steps per day.

This is not an exhaustive list by any means.  Spend some time brainstorming ideas depending on your specific routine.  Remember little things throughout your day can add up to a BIG impact.  The more you get in the habit of increasing your movement, the more natural it becomes….and you may just find that you actually enjoy it too.