In March of this year, Saina Jayapal, a Bengaluru-based public relations expert, began taking it upon herself to walk 10,000 steps a day. She was trying to lose weight and had to do a little more exercise every day, says Jayapal, who also eats right and exercises regularly. She managed to achieve her goal by getting used to exercise all day – pacing up and down with her phone or walking back from places – and tracking herself with a fitness app. “I realized that the only way I could walk was to lose weight,” she says.
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If you’ve ever started a weight loss program, you know the rules of the game: count your calories and make more conscious food choices; Exercise regularly; Sleep enough; regulate your hormones and your stress levels. However, there is another component of weight loss and fitness that we cannot talk about enough: NEAT. According to the American Council of Exercise (ACE), NEAT, or non-sports activity thermogenesis, includes the activities involved outside of exercise, eating, and sleeping.
“Simple tasks like raking leaves, doing physical labor, climbing stairs, and even fidgeting help us burn extra calories,” read a 2014 article on the ACE website that indicated that NEAT increases metabolic rate and causes people to consume a considerable amount of energy time. “Introducing NEAT behavior can increase daily calorie consumption by up to 350 calories per day and is particularly beneficial for overweight people,” she adds.
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Yash Vardhan Swami, a Chandigarh-based fitness trainer and educator, agrees. “The human body is there to move, and exercise is amazing for cardiovascular and lymphatic health, too,” he says, pointing out that NEAT can help burn extra calories, aid digestion, manage stress and sleep better. And yes, it helps that it’s free and doesn’t require any special equipment or membership or tutorial, he adds.
Unfortunately, however, many of us ignore this aspect of fitness. Let’s face it, most of us come home after a 45 minute workout and then flop on the couch all day claiming we’re too tired to move. “There is a study that when people start a weight loss program they often forego all of these other activities like shopping, grocery shopping, and so on,” says Abishek Balaji, a Chennai-based fitness trainer and founder of 24X7 Gym.
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The bottom line is that you may not lose weight because the total calories you burned in total will stay the same even after you exercise. “I feel like NEAT is being neglected because most of us don’t understand the importance of being active,” says Swami, who believes that most people can only get the calories we burn through more Undermine activity. “We can make a significant difference to our health and even our fat loss goals by walking more over time.”
Ready to get more active? Megha Kapoor, a certified fitness and nutrition coach based in Jaipur, has a few suggestions:
1. Walk around while on business calls or talking to your friends
2. Try to keep your phone away from you at all times when you don’t need it all the time. Keep things that you need a little further away from you. This way you will be forced to walk when your phone rings.
3. Avoid telling your co-workers to do the work that you can easily do yourself. Get your things yourself.
4. If you have pets that you have to walk with every day, walk them yourself. Do not hire anyone to accompany them.
5. On a weekend, when you have free time, wash your car yourself. It’s more fun than it sounds. Have children? Include them too; it’s a blast!
6. Park your car further away from the grocery / mall entrance instead of finding the closest parking lot.
7. If you have younger children / nieces / nephews, play with them and take part in their games (not video games!). It’s mutually beneficial.
8. If possible, invest in a standing desk at work. Ikea has some decent ones.
9. When you come back from the grocery store / airport, unload your luggage yourself.
10. When you have finished eating, bring your plate into the kitchen yourself and step inside.
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