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The NEAT way to exercise


When you hear the word “neat” do you think:

  1. clean and tidy

  2. old-school terminology for ‘cool’

  3. the latest fitness buzz word?

NEAT, which stands for Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis, has been gaining traction over the past couple of years, and it could be the missing element that gets you to your fitness goal faster. But what does it actually mean?

NEAT is how well you burn calories when you’re doing normal things like the chores or walking to work – all the activity between your workouts. These smaller tasks may seem way too easy to have any kind of impact on your fitness (and they are in terms of strength or cardio gains), but when it comes to burning fat, every little bit counts! According to the scientists who study NEAT, non-exercise activities can torch up to 2000 extra calories per day depending on your body type! How simple is that?

Knowing your NEAT is a great way to track how much activity you are doing each day, how many calories you are burning, and how much fuel you need to reach your fat loss and fitness goals. Let’s take a look at how NEAT could be your secret weapon.

How does my body use energy?

Before you can get NEAT working for you, you need to know how your body creates and uses energy.

Energy can come from the food you eat, or the fat stores in your body. Mitochondria (known as the power generators of your cells) convert this fuel into usable energy by heating and distributing tiny molecules into your bloodstream. Your body uses this energy to function, and each day you will burn a certain amount – this is your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure).

TDEE is made up of four things:

  1. BMR (basal metabolic rate) – energy you burn just to stay alive, like your heart beating to pump blood around your body, and your lungs breathing oxygen in and out.

  2. TEF (thermic effect of food) – energy used to consume, digest, metabolise and store foods.

  3. TEA (thermic effect of activity) – energy used to perform voluntary movements like exercise or play sport.

  4. NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) – energy used to do normal daily things (other than sleeping or exercising) like walking, standing, bending, moving.

How does NEAT work?

NEAT is any activity you do beyond sleeping or your daily HIIT and strength workouts, like the ones you can do on Emily Skye FIT. So when you’re brushing your teeth, taking out the washing, picking something up or even fidgeting by tapping your fingers, you’re getting in some non-exercise activity – and burning extra calories without even knowing it. To carry out these activities, your body needs to burn energy. And when you are expending more energy than you are taking in, you reach a calorie deficit – at which point your body starts to burn fat for fuel. So the more you move, the more stored energy you will burn. And the bonus is, your NEAT can be increased without much thought at all.

How do I up my daily NEAT and increase fat burn?

  • Count steps – keep your steps up by using a fitness tracker or pedometer, and track how many steps you take.

  • Play with the kids or your pets – run around outside, play hide and seek, throw sticks or a ball for your dog.

  • Do it yourself – get up and physically do things if you can. For instance, don’t email a colleague if you have to ask them a question – get up and walk over to their desk instead. All that walking will add to your NEAT!

  • Stand up – if you sit at work, get a standing desk if you can. Or bounce on a swiss ball instead of a chair. Stand up to fold the washing or when scrolling through Facebook or Instagram.

  • Take the stairs – you already know this: don't use the lift or escalators, use your legs!

  • Don’t do what’s easiest – increase your daily walks by going an extra block to pick up a coffee, or taking the scenic route home.

  • Tick chores off the to-do list – hanging the washing on the line, scrubbing the pots and pans, wiping tables and benchtops, taking out the trash, mopping the floor.

All of these tasks require energy and will burn through those extra kilojoules!

The first step to maximising your NEAT is being conscious of it. Doing as much as you can each day will give you a boost, rev up your fat burn and get you to your goals faster.

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