Never mind that you’re totally focused on a summer fitness programme of 50 press-ups, 10 miles and 250 crunches (all before breakfast), we’re going to strip things down to basics and talk about ‘activity’. Not a planned workout, but being active. I’m going to throw this term out there. It’s called NEAT. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis. And your NEAT really counts. Neat is the energy expended for everything we do that isn’t sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise. So walking, sweeping, typing, singing, gardening, house-work, stair-climbing, laughing, fidgeting, dancing, knee bouncing – all of these low-duration, low-intensity activities can contribute so much to our metabolic rate (that’s our resting energy output), our health and our (for want of a better word) waistlines. A 30 minute walk may only burn 100-150 calories but add to that carrying a supermarket basket (rather than pushing a trolley), that glute clenching and knee fidgeting you did on the bus, the amount of times you adjusted your posture in your chair at work…it all counts.
Getting your NEAT up (yes, it’s a thing) goes way beyond burning calories though. It can improve blood sugar and cholesterol levels, mental health and clarity, lessen the risk of joint stiffness and pain and help reduce inflammatory conditions such as obesity, Alzheimer’s and heart disease. Simply because it’s continuous low effort movement. And you don’t even have to think about it!
And get this, research shows that inactivity (i.e no NEAT) can actually negate the hard work you’ve put into your more strenuous exercise. Being more ‘active’ will help you reap the rewards from those Annie Deadman workouts (youtube.com/anniedeadman if you’re interested).
So friends, let’s fidget, wave our arms about in an animated fashion, walk up the escalator, take the stairs not the lift, brush our teeth vigorously whilst walking up and down tidying piles of strewn clothes (or is that just me?), park in the space furthest away from Sainsbury’s entrance (drives my children mad), hoover, scrub, chop, saw, dig and stand rather than sit. Yes, stand.
ANNIE’S TIP: If you’re still working from home, persuade your company to order you a standing desk. A study undertaken by the National Academy of Sports Medicine concluded that a 10 stone person (let’s assume woman) can expect to burn roughly 100 calories an hour while sitting at work. If she stands, she burns an extra 74 calories. Over a year that’s around 18,000 calories. Failing that, make your body work harder while you’re sitting and sit on a gym ball. Keeping upright and your core engaged takes more energy. Ikea do sit/stand desks as do Wayfair.co.uk and good value gym bals are available from Amazon.
Happy Neat Day.
(based on a piece written for ‘Woman’ magazine February 2022).