What is the easiest way to get healthier? By simply moving — plain and simple. A lot of times, I hear the same concern over and over from those who are hesitant to work out:
“I don’t know where to start.”
And then the thinking of what to do (or what not to do) commences, and you just end up slouched on the couch–all the while, remaining inactive for the entire time you could have simply been moving.
This is where NEAT comes in. NEAT, or Nonexercise Activity Thermogenesis, is basically any movement you do during your day that is NOT sports-like exercise, sleeping, or eating. This involves any movement from lifting your patient higher up in bed, typing your nursing notes on the computer, or tapping your foot while patiently waiting in line for the bathroom.
In fact, actively engaging in frequent movement (of any kind) throughout the day may actually be more beneficial than doing one bout of structured exercise and remaining inactive for the rest of the day.
Let’s break down energy expenditure (ie, how energy is used) real quick…
A 2004 article by James Levine in the American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism summarizes the break down of energy expenditure in sedentary adults into three main components (full article link below):
- Basal metabolic rate (BMR)
- Thermic effect of food
- Active thermogenesis (Exercise & NEAT)
In a nutshell: Basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the amount of energy our body uses at rest; the thermic effect of food is how much energy we use to eat, digest, and store food; and active thermogenesis is how much energy we use for ALL OTHER movements (both energy for exercise and energy for NEAT).
If you don’t move, most of your energy is used when your body is resting and eating… which doesn’t burn a whole ton of calories.
But imagine if you were to move ALL day, including cooking, cleaning, shopping, typing, driving, whatever it is you do… Think of how much energy you are utilizing with EACH movement.
According to this article on How Stuff Works, you can burn up to 72 calories for 30 minutes of folding clothes, 243 calories for pushing a shopping cart around for an hour, and even up to 5.7 calories for brushing your teeth for 2 minutes.
A general recommendation for doing NEAT would be to move for a few minutes at a time every 30 minutes. So at work, this can include:
- Ambulating your patient
- Moving as you are waiting for your patient in the loo
- Shoulder circles or neck rotations while charting
- Taking the stairs instead of the elevator
- Walking outside during your break
- And (in a psych setting!) doing environmental rounds on your patients every 15 minutes
- Standing while charting
American Journal of Physiology: http://ajpendo.physiology.org/content/286/5/E675