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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Rake the leaves. I’ll admit, it’s a chore I don’t like, but yard work of any kind is great exercise!
- 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.
- 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?