NEAT Ideas to Burn More Calories

If you’re like a lot of people, keeping up with fitness goals is hard this time of year.  With colder temperatures and wet stuff falling from the skies, being outside is not so much fun.  I have to admit, though, that some of my funnest and most invigorating runs have been in the snow!

And should we even mention all the holiday gatherings and parties?  It’s just a tough time of year to stay on track.

And then, tack on an injury that prevents your normal activities.  That’s me currently with this wonky hip flexor.  (More on that progress in another post.)

So with a few months of limited activity, I’ve really been focusing on non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) to burn as many calories as possible to help me stay in shape.

Okay, quick biology lesson before I loose you with some big ‘ol term like non-exercise activity thermogenesis.  There are basically 3 ways that our body burns calories:

  1.  Basal metabolic rate (BMR).  Metabolism is basically all the behind the scenes things that happen without us being aware to keep our bodies ticking– reactions that keep our hearts beating and cause respiration, for example.  This is actually our biggest source of calorie expenditure, and everyone’s BMR differs.  A rough estimate of my BMR is between 1200-1300 calories.  That means that I will expend 1200-1300 calories a day just to keep my body functioning.
  2. Thermic effect of food.  Our bodies burn calories through digesting the food we eat.  It’s a small source of calorie expenditure, but it is a way our body uses fuel.
  3. Exercise.  And the last way our body burns calories is through exercise–movement.  We all know that, right?  We think about exercise as that hour in the gym or 30 minutes on the treadmill or that Zumba class.  Whatever your thing is “exercise” tends to have this defined start and stop time of doing a specific activity with the focus of conditioning our bodies–which is important to overall health and fitness.

But another part of exercise is non-exercise activity thermogenesis or NEAT.  Don’t be alarmed.  It’s just a long term that refers to the calories you burn by all the movement you do outside of your regularly scheduled exercise session that can add up to hundreds of extra calories burned a day.

Here are 10 NEAT ideas to keep you moving and burning calories:

  1.  Stand up every 30 minutes.  If you have a desk job, just stand up every 30 minutes.  Remember that any movement makes your body burn fuel, AKA calories.
  2. Park further from the store.  Do you ever get tired of driving around looking for a convenient parking space?  Why not just pick that spot in the back 40 where no one parks?  You’ll get in extra steps walking to and from the store, and you’ll have the added bonus of avoiding those awful door dings.
  3. Wash the dishes by hand.  Hey, it’s just an idea.  You’ll have those extra minutes of scrubbing and drying dishes to burn away extra calories.
  4. Fidget.  If you’re like me, you hear your mom scold you for fidgeting if you start to jiggle your leg or tap your fingers, but fidgeting can actually add to the number of calories you burn in a day.  Stuck in a meeting?  Jiggle your leg or tap your fingers. Stuck in a line at the grocery store?  Why not just shift your weight from one leg to the other?  It’s movement!
  5. Do glute extensions while you’re brushing  your teeth.  Seriously, I do this sometimes.  While I’m standing there brushing my choppers, I just extend one leg behind me and use the glute (butt) muscles to kick out my leg.
  6. Take the stairs.  So if  you work on the 99th floor, this may not be feasible, but I bet you could walk a few flights of stairs.  Avoiding elevators and climbing stairs is a great way to get in some extra movement during the day.
  7. March in place.  If you’re at home watching a movie or a TV program, commercial breaks are a great time to get up and move.  March in place if it’s a commercial you really want to see, or just take a quick walk up and down the hall.
  8. Rake the leaves.  I’ll admit, it’s a chore I don’t like, but yard work of any kind is great exercise! 
  9. Take the long way.  Just like parking further from the store entrance can increase your steps for the day, so can taking the long way.  Don’t just opt for the shortest path to the bathroom, coffee pot, or water fountain; make an excursion out of your break and add in a few more steps.
  10. Sit on a stability ball.  You’ll have to use more muscles to stabilize yourself on the ball and you’ll probably find yourself bouncing around on it and moving more than if you were sitting in a regular chair.  Plus, they’re just super fun!

Bottom line, NEAT is all about moving as much as you can throughout your day.  Sit as little as possible; move as much as you can.  One big source of NEAT for me recently has been washing kitchen and bathroom cabinets.  Sunny checked things out to make sure I hadn’t missed a spot.  How would I survive without him? 🙂Promise yourself today to increase your NEAT.  You can do it!

Talk to me:

How do you keep yourself moving throughout the day?

What’s your biggest challenge to fitness during winter?

Route 66 from the Sidelines

Yesterday was a bittersweet kind of day.  It was the Route 66 half/full marathon day, the race I had been training for before Mr. Hip Flexor cried “ouch” and made me stop training.

I woke up in a total funk, to be perfectly honest.  I can’t even tell you how disappointed I was at not being able to participate in the race.  And it looked to be perfect running weather, not cold and blustery like the day before.  So I laid in bed, debating whether to even go to the race or not.  Finally, I kicked myself in the butt and got going.  Really?  I was going to lay in bed and mope because I can’t run instead of cheering on my friends?  What kind of friend, and runner, am I?

And I’m so glad I got myself out the door.  It was a gorgeous fall day!  Bright blue skies, just that right temperature, very little wind.  Just being outside lifted my spirits.

I decided to take advantage of the fact that I would be watching the race to see parts of a race that I don’t get to experience when I’m running the race…like the start.  Sure, I can hear the gun and feel the surge of the crowd as we near and cross the start line, but I’ve never seen what that start looks like.  Wow!  So fun!

The race started with the national anthem.Then the wheelchair racers started.  Can I just say that wheelchair racers are a-mazing!  Running a marathon with the use of big leg muscles is hard enough; I can’t imagine doing it without the use of those muscles.  Then, it’s time for the open race.  The drum beats out a rhythm that gets your heart pounding.  The announcer counts down the seconds:  10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1!  The gun sounds; confetti fills the air and the racers are underway!  Just standing there taking it all in, I could feel my heart beat with anticipation, as if I was in my corral waiting for my turn to run through the confetti and cross the start line.  So fun!

Once the race was underway, I stationed myself at the 3.5 mile mark. 

The runners were still running fairly tightly, and I because I was hoping to be able to see some of my friends, I cheered on the masses for a bit and then scoped out another spot around the 7 mile mark.I have to say, driving around town during a huge race gave me an understanding of the frustration I hear from non-runners trying to get where they need to go.  This is a common site during a race.  Intersections blocked with police standing watch make it hard to maneuver the city, but as a runner, I am most grateful for the many, many police who stand for hours to protect the runners.

Another thing I’m so grateful for as a runner is this:Yes, a porta potty is a beautiful site when you’re on a long run and you’ve gotta go!

I saw a few friends, but I decided to move on to another location.  I found a spot at around mile 20 on the marathon route.  I got there ahead of the runners, and so I saw another first.  Here comes the first place marathon runner!  How exciting!I hung out on the corner for a long time.  By now the crowd had thinned out and the racers were coming by one at a time and then later 3 or 4 in a group.  It was so fun to be able to encourage them individually as they came down the hill and turned the curve to face this:Let me tell you.  If may not look like a big hill, but after 20-21 miles, even a molehill feels huge!

And standing on that corner, I encountered a blind runner.  Yes, you read that correctly.  A man with no sight was running the marathon, and he was ahead of the 4:30 pacer.  Translation:  this guy was moving!  Application:  I have no excuse to not try.

And so my Route 66 marathon ended, not with a medal and a PR as I’d hoped, but with an appreciation again of the beauty of the body in motion, deep respect for the runners who put so much time and effort into running this race, and sincere gratitude for eyes to see the race, a voice with which to cheer, and legs that may not be able to run a marathon at the moment but do work and will, in time, run again.

Congratulations to all the Route 66 finishers!  You guys are awesome!




Another Home Workout

So recovery continues as I wait for my body to heal.  It’s a slow, rather torturous process, this business of just waiting.  And it’s getting even harder as I feel better.  I feel like I could run and do the things I love to do, but feeling better doesn’t necessarily mean healing is complete.  So…I wait.  Next week is my follow-up appointment.  Fingers crossed, I’ll get to add in at least some activity!

Today I thought I’d take you through another workout I did at home.  I did a circuit of 4 different exercises, 2 chest exercises and 2 back exercises, going through the circuit 3 times, and finishing with some calf raises.

I started with 15 push-ups.  Believe me, I was doing 2-3 push-ups at a time towards the end of my second set of 15 and into the third set!With no rest, I flipped onto my back and did 20 dumbbell hex presses.  This picture is not a good angle, but I’m pressing 2 dumbbells together over my chest and then pushing them up so that my arms are fully extended.Then I went into 20 rows with a resistance band.As you can see, working out at home sometimes requires a bit of creativity!  I used the couch leg to anchor my bands and 2 bands to add more resistance.  I’m learning to love resistance bands.  There’s so much you can do with them.  Plus, they give a great workout!The last back exercise was back extension.  I anchor my feet against a wall, and I like to hold a weight to make the exercise just a bit harder.At the completion of the circuit, I rested for about a minute before starting the next round.

When I completed the circuit 3 times, I did 3-way calf raises, 25 reps each way.  I started with my toes pointed forward.On the next set of 25 reps, my toes were pointed out.For the last 25 reps, my toes were pointed toward the middle.  Whoa!  Changing the position of your toes takes the burn all the way up to the booty!

So another short and simple workout but it got me sweating!

Talk to me:

What’s your workout for today?

What’s your favorite workout gadget or piece of equipment?