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Celia Stewart Nutrition

NEAT, or Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, is a scientific description of the calories you burn during normal day to day activity. NEAT can vary between people by as much as 2000kcal per day (Levine 2004). As well as affecting your weight, sedentary living can have long term consequences for your health. So get out of that chair and move.

Sitting down in an office all day long, driving to and from work, watching TV every evening, spending time socializing eating and drinking – does this sound familiar? You could be spending too much time sitting down. Going to the gym a couple of times a week, or even exercising for the recommended 30 minutes per day, may not be enough to counteract the fact that much of your time you are sedentary (Hamilton et al 2008). Spending long hours sitting or lying down is known to have a negative impact on your health and is associated with an increase in all causes of mortality including cancer and cardiovascular disease (Katzmarzyk et al 2009). This increase is shown to be independent of leisure time activity. In a large group of healthy and physically acitive individuals the amount of time they spent watching television was directly associated with increases in waist circumference, blood pressure, blood glucose levels and cholesterol levels (Healy et al 2008a). Breaks in sedentary time on the other hand were shown to improve metabolic markers. Even minimal activity such as standing up or walking one single step, benefited waist circumference, BMI and blood glucose levels (Healy et al 2008b).

NEAT includes every day activities such as taking the stairs instead of the lift, parking further from the supermarket, cleaning your own home, washing the dishes. Mowing the lawn, walking the dog, including walking instead of driving wherever you can, choosing dancing over sitting and watching, going shopping rather than ordering online all contribute. Every time you get up and move you are signaling to your body to burn a few calories. Every time you use your muscles you are increasing the amount of blood glucose you burn. A short walk after meals lowers blood glucose levels leaving less to be turned into fat. If your job requires you to sit for long periods try to get up and walk around the desk once or twice an hour and take a walk at lunchtime. If you’re having an evening in front of the TV get up during the adverts to make a cup of tea. Investing in a pedometer or accelerometer can help to inspire you to move more.


Hamilton MT Healy GN Dunstan DW Zeric TW Owen N (2008) Too Little Exercise and Too Much Sitting: Inactivity Physiology and the Need for New Recommendations on Sedentary Behavior
Current Cardiovascular Risk Reports 2:292–298

Healy GN Dunstan DW Salmon J Shaw JE Zimmet PZ Owen N (2008a) Television time and continuous metabolic risk in physically active adults Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 40:639–645.

Healy GN Dunstan DW Salmon J Cerin E Shaw JE Zimmet PZ Owen N (2008b) Breaks in Sedentary Time Beneficial associations with metabolic risk Diabetes Care 31(4):661-666

Katzmarzyk PT Church TS Craig C.L Bouchard C (2009) Sitting Time and Mortality from All Causes, Cardiovascular Disease, and Cancer Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 41 (5), 998-1005

Levine JA (2004) Nonexercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT): environment and biology American Journal of Physiology, Endocrinology and Metabolism
286: E675-E685

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