Burning calories without structured exercise?
Okay let’s break down exactly what this means. NEIT stands for Non-Exercise Induced Thermogenesis, and it’s the activities that you do throughout your day that burn calories and expend energy. This includes things like:
- walking up the stairs
- mowing the lawn
- making the bed
- washing dishes
- carrying the groceries
Or tapping your foot under the desk because that song you have playing in your headphones is on beat! So why haven’t you lost the weight by mowing the lawn once a week? Well, that is because the amount of energy expenditure varies depending on the task. Walking in the grocery store vs taking the motorized cart will yield a higher thermogenic effect, burning more calories. That’s all thermogenesis is, it is the production of heat in response to an activity that results in “burned calories.” Now let’s discuss why being mindful and incorporating NEIT into your life may yield positive results.
Many individuals that are overweight do not have a structured exercise routine, therefore, NEIT is a primary way of burning calories. Knowing this, optimizing these activities may pave the way to more intentional ways of moving and even beginning an exercise routine. Let’s take Alex for example. It was recommended by Alex’s healthcare provider that he begin exercising to lose weight and manage his high cholesterol. Alex is busy, works full time, has never made exercising a priority, and frankly doesn’t like to exercise at all. Alex works as a medical aid in an assisted living facility spending most of the works 8 hours on his feet standing and walking. He decided to get a Fitbit to track his steps. The CDC currently recommends getting at least 10, 000 steps in a day. After tracking his steps, Alex averaged about 6-8 thousand steps a day. Not bad for a days work.
By the way, 10, 000 steps burns about 300-400 calories! Although Alex wasn’t ready to commit to exercising, but he was willing to begin being mindful of how much be walks at work and began tracking his steps. Was this the same as going to the gym 3 days a week? No, obviously not, but what it did was it began moving things in the right direction. Alex decided that he was going to utilize part of his lunch break to go to the long stairs and walk up and down 3 times. That’s the most “exercise” he’s ever committed to. The point here is, one decision to become mindful of your daily energy expenditure may lead to intentional activities that lead in the right direction.
Now let’s get back to how you can incorporate NEIT into your days without totally changing your entire routine.
Begin by acknowledging that anytime you are not sitting on the couch scrolling your phone you are already doing something positive.
Notice where you can optimize your NEIT activities. For example, you can decide to park the car farther away from work every morning, now instead of walking 50 steps to work you’re walking 150. If you have an option to sit or stand, stand if you can. Wash your car by hand instead of having someone else do it or going through the drive-through car wash. Also let’s be honest, washing your car on a nice day seeing the soap wash off, the bucket, the water from the hose, it has so much potential to feel good!
Moving on, take the stairs instead of the elevator. If you have kids and take them to the playground, get out there and play with them! Notice next time you are at the playground with your kids, there are the parents that sit on the bench and there are the parents walking around with their kids.
If you’re carrying groceries, go ahead and carry the most! If you sit at a desk for work make it a point to stand and move often, go get some water, walk to your co-workers desk rather than sending an email, or if you really want to take it up a notch, utilize one of those standing desks. The point here is, there are many opportunities to utilize NEIT without restricting your entire routine.
It is about taking mindful action which may ultimately lead to more inspired action, that of only which you will know once you start.
The American Diabetes Association (2022) recommends getting up and moving every 30 minutes for at least 3 minutes to control blood glucose levels.
The saying goes Move a Muscle Change a Thought. Begin being mindful of your daily energy expenditure where you can. This doesn’t require major changes, and you may not lose 30 pounds from NEIT alone. But what you will have done is begin making positive changes, and the secret here is that positive change leads to more positive change, which leads to more positive change.