Friday, September 10

Oh NEAT!

Today we’ll be talking about how neat NEAT is!  NEAT is Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis.  Now you can see why they made it into an acronym.  That mouthful of words refers basically to the movement we make in our day that is not specifically exercise.
As I sit at work I can see a pair of people talking—one gesturing wildly as she talks.  I see a woman bouncing her leg as she sits and types.  My boss (who is seven months pregnant) has made about a dozen trips to the bathroom in the last hour.  I watch a man stand at the printer tapping his hand impatiently on his thigh.
There are three components of energy expenditure or how our bodies spend energy:
1) Basal Metabolic Rate – I had previously defined BMR (or your Resting Metabolic Rate) and provided a way to calculate (click here to read the post).  Your BMR is the calories your body spends just keeping you alive: pumping your heart, running your brain, breathing, etc.
2) Thermic Effect of Food – Your TEF is the calories your body spends processing the food you eat: chewing, swallowing, digesting, etc.
3) Activity Thermogenesis – Your AT is any calories your body uses when you move, whether exercise or spontaneous activity.
Most people focus on the exercise portion of their AT.  Meaning, most people spend their entire day in a sedentary fashion and then make a trip to the gym after work to make up for it.  But NEAT can contribute significantly to our overall energy expenditure.  Studies have found that NEAT can make up as little as 15% to as much as 50% of a person’s energy expenditure.
Much of our NEAT is influenced by our environment.  At work, I choose to send anything I need to print to the machine furthest from my desk.  I own a townhouse with three floors, so stairs are an inevitable component of my home life.  But some of our NEAT is biological as well.  Obviously, young people have more natural NEAT and elderly can lose NEAT that may have been more natural.  Or, think about how you feel after you’ve eaten Thanksgiving dinner—you’re not usually in a mood to bounce around the house.
Have you noticed NEAT in your own life?  How do you think it impacts your weight maintenance, loss or gain?

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